Facebook Celebrates Forcing 1 Billion of its Existing Users to Download Messenger

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Have you seen the headlines? Facebook Messenger just hit 1 billion users.

The tech press was quick to froth over Facebook’s embargoed press release, touting the tech company’s impressively large collection of human users around the world. But nobody asked the obvious: Is Facebook’s one billion user tally on Messenger really a milestone if the company forced their existing user base to download the app?

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Originally, Facebook messaging was built into the standalone app, so you could use it as part of the Facebook app experience. Then, in April 2014, Facebook decided to strip that functionality out of the app, and force users to download an entirely separate app. What Facebook really accomplished here was convincing 1 billion of its users to download an entirely separate app just to use a part of Facebook’s core functionality, then having the tech press regurgitate this achievement.

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Facebook’s public reasoning was that with a standalone app, your friends would respond to your messages faster. For me, the message app makes it a whole lot easier to entirely ignore all of my Facebook messages, which are mostly spam garbage anyways.

What’s more likely is that Facebook saw the writing on the wall. People were starting to switch to more personalized sharing on apps like Snapchat, instead of wanting to broadcast their thoughts to the entire world. Facebook saw this threat, and shrewdly pushed its users onto a standalone messaging app so it could have a product that capitalized on this new wave of personal sharing. (It’s worth noting that Facebook doubled down on personalized sharing when it dropped $16 billion to buy WhatsApp.)

So, a big congratulations to Facebook. The company now has another app with one billion users, a very positive round of press for what’s essentially a non-story, and even more personal data to sell to the highest bidding advertiser. Now that’s an accomplishment.

Staff Writer, Gizmodo | Send me tips: william.turton@gizmodo.com

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DISCUSSION

Relax everyone. You don’t have to use the Facebook Messenger app. I don’t even use the Facebook app itself. Just use the mobile web version on your phone (m.facebook.com........) using Chrome (other browsers may work too). Once there, use the browser option to “request desktop site”, and you can message just like you always have. You can skip that last step if you only want to use Facebook and not the messaging part. I even put a bookmark for it on my home page so I wouldn’t have to call up Chrome first.

This has several advantages. First, the browser/desktop site looks just like the app. You can’t tell the difference. Second, I can save my default settings for “recent posts” instead of the app’s default “top stories”. Third, you can use your instant messages including the ability to choose which of your friends see you online and which ones dont. I could be wrong, when I tried Messenger awhile back, I couldn’t do that. If I was available for chat, it was to everyone, not just a select few.

Give it a try.