Messenger Drops Facebook Requirement

No mere side act, Facebook is extremely bullish about Messenger and its potential as a standalone consumer service.

The social giant is no longer requiring new Messenger users to sign up with a Facebook account.

“With this update, more people can enjoy all the features that are available on Messenger,” Louis Boval, a software engineer at Facebook, writes in a blog post. “All you need is a phone number.”

The relaxed sign-up policy will initially apply to U.S. consumers, along with those in Canada, Peru, and Venezuela.

Of course, Facebook would still love to see new Messenger users partake in its flagship service.

“There are many benefits to using your Facebook credentials when signing up for Messenger,” according to Boval. “People can easily message with their Facebook friends and contacts, access their Facebook messages and take advantage of multi-device messaging across mobile devices, the web and tablets.”

Yet, with the change, growing Messenger is clearly the top priority for Facebook.

Last year, Facebook boldly asked more than 1 billion users to install the messaging service as a separate mobile app. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that it was a “big ask.” Just three months after the change, however, Messenger has been downloaded more than 500 million times.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, Facebook officially turned Messenger into a platform for developers to directly distribute their apps to users. Trying to upend customer relationship management, Facebook also recently announced plans to position Messenger at the center of business-to-consumer communication.

With the big Messenger changes, Facebook is following the lead of Line and other platforms, which have been redefining the definition of a messaging service. Some in the industry see Facebook’s focus on Messenger as a bit defensive.

“Messenger is Facebook’s answer to the growing concern of the younger generation abandoning Facebook, the social network, for messaging apps like Snapchat,” said Greg Ratner, director of technology at Deep Focus, recently told Social Media & Marketing Daily.

Defensive or not, Facebook has recently sought to bolster Messenger with a growing list of features. Just last week, it added a peer-to-peer -- or friend-to-friend -- money transfer service to Messenger.

And the efforts are paying off. Earlier this month, the Messenger app surpassed 1 billion downloads among Android users alone.

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