Facebook to force users to new Messenger app this week

In a move to boost its family of mobile apps, Facebook is forcing users to download the stand-alone Facebook Messenger app if they want to instant message over mobile devices. 

Valentin Flauraud/Reuters/File
A Facebook application logo is pictured on a mobile phone in this file photo illustration taken in Lavigny.

If you like to use the Facebook mobile app for messaging, then Facebook has an important message for you: it's time to download the Messenger app. 

In a clear example of the social networking giant's push for a strong mobile strategy, in the next few days users will see the chat function disappear from the main Facebook app for iOS and Android as they are forced to switch to Facebook Messenger, a stand-alone app for Facebook messaging. 

If you currently have both apps, then you already get redirected to the Messenger app upon starting a new conversation in the Facebook app, meaning you would see no interruption in your messaging experience. But users who do not have Messenger and try to start a conversation on the Facebook app will be prompted to download messenger.

"In the next few days, we're continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they'll need to download the Messenger app," a Facebook spokesperson told The Telegraph

This move follows Facebook's decision to force users in Europe to switch to Messenger after they discontinued the messaging service within the main Facebook app, according to Tech Crunch, which noted that people using Messenger respond "about 20 percent faster" to messages when using Messenger as opposed to the Facebook app. 

In a brief statement, Facebook explained that the forced switch will help it to improve both the Facebook and Messenger apps. 

"As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experience," the statement reads. "Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people."

As users increasingly engage with their social networks via mobile devices, Facebook has sought to tailor its services to fit this platform. As such, recent months have seen Facebook positioning itself as a service that can both provide users with mobile experiences, in addition to monetizing those experiences. 

In June, former PayPal president David Marcus announced he would be joining Facebook as vice president of messaging products, following the company's fourth quarter 2013 results, which revealed that Facebook's mobile ad revenue had for the first time outpaced the company's desktop ad revenue, with mobile ads comprising 53 percent of total ad revenue.

That trend is only continuing. The company reported strong second quarter results, much of which stemmed from its successful mobile strategy. It reported that 62 percent of its total ad revenue came from mobile ads. That number is up from 41 percent in the second quarter of 2013. Facebook also saw a 39 percent increase in mobile daily active users and a 31 percent increase in mobile monthly active users. 

Facing competition from mobile messaging upstarts in recent years such as Snapchat and WhatsApp, Facebook has sought to either bring those companies under the Facebook domain – as with its purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock – or develop its own competing services – as is the case with Facebook's more recently launched Slingshot app, a competitor to Snapchat, which Facebook reportedly failed to acquire last year despite a $3 billion offer. 

Facebook's growing family of mobile apps create new opportunities for the company to generate revenue, a key reason for Facebook to split its various features into stand-alone apps, a process known as app splintering. In doing so, Facebook increases the number of different platforms at its disposal with which it can place ads in front of consumers, in addition to other moneymaking features, such as in-app purchases and add-ons that people can purchase from mobile app stores to enhance the experience of an app they may have downloaded for free. 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call discussing the second quarter results that Facebook has plans to monetize the Messenger app. 

"Over time there will be some overlap between that and payments," he said. "The payments piece will be a part of what will help drive the overall success and help people share with each other and interact with businesses."

He noted, however, that this monetization will take time to implement. 

"We could take the cheap and easy approach and put ads in and do payments and make money in the short-term, but we’re not going to do that," he said. "We’re going to take the time to do this in the way that is going to be right over multiple years." 

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