Facebook Messenger Surpasses 500M Downloads

Facebook has been roundly criticized for forcing users to download a distinct app to send and receive mobile messages. Three months after the change, however, Facebook Messenger has been downloaded more than 500 million times, Facebook boasted on Monday.

Peter Martinazzi, director of product management at Facebook, called the achievement “an exciting milestone” in a blog post.

The news comes less than a week after CEO Mark Zuckerberg took time out of a “town hall” meeting to address Facebook’s messaging strategy.

Regarding Facebook’s decision to split off Messenger, Zuckerberg said: “We really believe that [a separate app] is a better experience.”

“On mobile, each app can really focus on doing one thing well, we think, and the primary focus of the Facebook app, today, is News Feed,” Zuckerberg explained last week. “What we saw is that all of the messaging apps that people were using, and that they relied on the most, were kind of these dedicated, focused experiences.”

Zuckerberg admitted that requiring its roughly 1.3 billion users to install a separate messaging app was a “big ask.” Yet even though “it was a short-term painful thing to ask people to install [another app], we knew we could never deliver the [right] quality experience as just a tab in the main Facebook app."

Still, why not give people the option of using a distinct messaging app, or continue messaging through Facebook’s core app? “What we’re trying to do is build an experience and a service that’s good for everyone in the community,” Zuckerberg said. For instance, “one of the things we found is that because Messenger is faster and more focused, if you’re using it, you respond to messages faster.” 

Despite a lot of grumbling from users, Facebook has been mostly quiet on the subject since splitting off Messenger earlier this year. Previously, users could access the service from within Facebook’s core mobile app.

Within the industry, the decision is widely believed to be part of a broader strategy by Facebook to diversify its app offerings in order to create additional revenue streams, and increase overall mobile usage rates.

In June, Facebook launched a Snapchat-like app, Slingshot, which allows users to share pictures and video along with text to friends. More recently, Facebook launched Rooms -- a platform for people to connect based on similar interests rather than social ties.

As was clearly demonstrated by his decision to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion, Zuckerberg thinks mobile messaging is a big deal. In fact, Zuckerberg said that messaging is now “one of the few things that people actually do more than social networking.”

“In a lot of countries, we’ll see that maybe 85% of the people who are online will use Facebook, but maybe 95% of people -- or in some places 99% -- will use SMS or sent text messages,” Zuckerberg said this week.

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