Facebook hits App Store, Android with branded messaging app

Aug 10, 2011
Tech

Amid all the talk of new apps for the iPad and for photo sharing, Facebook seems to have snuck one past everyone by introducing a new messaging app for the social network in the iTunes App Store. The app, called Facebook Messenger, is the result of Facebook acquiring a messaging company called Beluga and its […]

Amid all the talk of new apps for the iPad and for photo sharing, Facebook seems to have snuck one past everyone by introducing a new messaging app for the social network in the iTunes App Store.

The app, called Facebook Messenger, is the result of Facebook acquiring a messaging company called Beluga and its technology back in February, according to a story from TechCrunch. Facebook already offered some messaging features in its other mobile apps for Apple’s iOS platform and for Android, but up to now they’ve been kind of weak and disorganized.

Facebook Messenger changes that, allowing users to quickly send messages to friends and even full groups from within the dedicated app, without any clutter. It’s easy to see why a lot of users would want it, seeing as chatting with Facebook friends through the app is free over a Wi-Fi connection and only costs 3G data usage otherwise. Even in its first few hours of availability in the App Store, Facebook Messenger already leads the Free App download chart.

Time to worry?

As TechCrunch points out, Facebook Messenger should probably have other messaging app developers a little worried. Facebook brings its 750 million-strong user base with the launch of Facebook Messenger, and the app is all about simplicity – one button to check messages, one to send them, to as many Facebook users as you like. And if most people are anything like me, they “know” more people on Facebook than they probably do in regular life, giving the app some serious versatility that others inherently lack.

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TechCrunch also notes that Apple and its upcoming iMessenger service are going to see some serious competition from Facebook Messenger. With iMessenger, as with Apple’s FaceTime video chatting app, users need the email address of the person they mean to contact for the service to work (or an iPhone phone number). Without that information, there’s no way to send a message. Facebook requires neither – in fact, it’s an app that can connect people much more easily because they require no contact information about the person whatsoever.

Facebook Messenger also makes group messaging pretty easy with the same Facebook elements that make finding people relatively easy. And, according to 9to5Mac, code within the app reveals that video chatting isn’t far off. Facebook recently integrated Skype with its website for the very same purpose, so it makes sense to see video being the next step. That would put it on equal footing with Apple’s FaceTime and even Skype’s mobile apps.

Cross-platform capability

And like Skype, Facebook Messenger has another big advantage over Apple’s upcoming products: it can work across platforms. Facebook Messenger is already available on Android devices and that means users can send messages regardless of what device the recipient is using (or not using, since messages also show up on the browser Facebook on personal computers).

We’ll have to wait and see how Facebook Messenger affects the market of apps that are like it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple ups its game with iMessenger for its September release. It’s also likely other app developers currently operating similar apps in the App Store are going to need to find new ways to innovate, both of which are good things.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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