If you happen to be an obsessive fan of both text messaging and Facebook, then you should be in heaven with the unveiling of Facebook Messenger. Messenger is an iPhone and Android app which lets smartphone users send messages and texts through Facebook. Even though there is already a Facebook with embedded messaging functionality, Facebook is looking to become an even bigger part of basic communication in phones.
The application, launched August 9, 2011, can be downloaded for free from both the Android Market and the iTunes App Store. Once the app is clicked, users are asked to login with their Facebook information. From there, the user is taken to a list of recent conversations, and has the choice of continuing them or starting a new conversation. This quick click convenience is what sets it apart from the original Facebook app. Up till now consumers had to navigate through the Facebook app to get to the messaging option, but now the process is no more difficult than text messaging a friend.
Beyond texting, Messenger’s key features include sharing of photos and present location. Also, messages can be directed outside Facebook to numbers already in your phonebook. The Messenger supports both the newly integrated message and chat functions. When Facebook revamped their chat function, they integrated it with the inbox, putting everything in one place.
Those who do not have the app can still receive Facebook messages via SMS. There are already mixed reviews in both online marketplaces for the app, with most of the complaints directed toward the app’s lack of indicating who is online (while the messaging feature has never been indicative of online users, the option was available via chat). Regardless of the criticism, it is already the number one free app in the iTunes App Store.
The Design Process
The app design started with Facebook’s necessity for a dedicated client in their focus toward the Messenger app. In March, they acquired the development team that built Beluga, which set the foundation for Messenger. Beluga and Messenger share popular features including group messaging, photo sharing, and push notifications (which, conveniently, can be turned off completely, overnight or just an hour).
In July, the tech world hyped up Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s “announcement” which turned out to be the addition of group chatting and video calling. At some point, it’s possible that Messenger will have some integration with Facebook’s new approach.
A Future in Video
Since Facebook Messenger is such a new app, of course there is going to be plenty of room for improvement as it gains more users. There are already signs that video chat will be implemented in the future. Facebook has not confirmed the possibility, but 9-to-5 Mac reported their findings of a video component rooted deep in the application. This could potentially serve as means for Facebook to take control of the video chat market ahead of Google via their Skype partnership. Google already came out with their own Google+ app for the Android which primarily focuses on the “Huddle” group texting function, so it will be interesting to see the back and forth developments between the apps within the next few months.