Facebook wants you to use Messenger, even without an account

The company is shedding a key requirement to build on Messenger's already impressive user base of 700 million.

The new Messenger format will allow users to sign up with just a phone number.

In efforts to bolster its viability as a standalone app and expand an already impressive user base of 700 million, Facebook’s Messenger service is no longer requiring you to have a Facebook account.

Messenger is an instant messaging app that allows – until this week – only Facebook users to chat and make voice and video calls. Now, to sign up, users only need a phone number, the company announced Wednesday.

New users in select countries will now see welcome screens that offer the option to not log in.

“I would totally use it! It allows you to stay connected and network with people via Facebook without having to deal with the negativity that Facebook provides,” says Valentina Matosian, a 22-year-old filmmaker who told the Monitor she hasn’t had an account in years.

Like other social networks, Facebook has pushed out a strong mobile strategy in the past year, from buying Whatsapp – the mobile messaging service that, since its acquisition, has gone from some 450 million monthly active users to now 800 million – to making its Messenger app mandatory for all users.

To avoid overwhelming users, Facebook has been deliberate about rolling out each of its developments gradually. It first introduced Messenger in August 2011, waiting nearly three years before forcing all users to download the app.

A few months ago, Facebook announced a Venmo-like feature that will let friends link their debit account information and send each other money, and Businesses on Messenger, a service that will allow users to start shopping in-app.

There is a clear advantage to having more users on Messenger. “People usually respond about 20 percent faster when they have Messenger, and we think they'll find both apps useful in different ways,” said Facebook on its website.

“Essentially, Facebook sees Messaging within its main apps as slow, buried, and sub-optimal overall. Its numbers probably indicate that people message more and have a better experience on the standalone Messenger app,” wrote TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine.

In March – the latest month for which Facebook has published user statistics – the network had 1.44 billion monthly active users, 87 percent of whom were logging in on cell phones, according to its website.

While the company is finally recognizing that not everybody wants to be on Facebook, it emphasized that “there are many benefits to using your Facebook credentials when signing up for Messenger.” Among these are being able to talk to Facebook contacts without their phone numbers and having the ability to store messages across devices, wrote software engineer Louis Boval in a blog post.

Currently, the new Messenger is only available in the US, Canada, Peru, and Venezuela. 

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