announced that it’s updated its Facebook Messenger for Android
app to allow users to create a Messenger account without actually joining Facebook. Instead, you can sign up for the service with merely your name and cell phone number. Over the next few weeks, the new Messenger accounts will be rolling out, and according to CNET, the first markets to get it include India, Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela, and South Africa. The feature will at some point be available on other mobile platforms such as iOS, as well.
Facebookers can already send text messages to contacts via the standalone Facebook Messenger app, but this somewhat subtle move indicates an important shift in how Facebook sees the mobile market. For one thing, this can expand the number of Messenger users beyond even the one billion people already on Facebook
and in turn entice new users to Facebook proper. Additionally, it offers an intriguing compromise between email and SMS
SMS has been around for 20 years and is still heavily utilized by young and old, but it’s somewhat under-featured and is also rather expensive, especially if you have a limited texting plan and go over on your allotted number of messages. Email, on the other hand, is over-featured and slow when it comes to instantaneous messaging.
More importantly, many younger users are leaning toward using Facebook as their primary communication tool anyway. (Anyone who regularly communicates with college or high school students can tell you that if you want to get a response from one quickly, Facebook is the best method.) Of course, younger users also tend to be high-volume texters, but you have to have their mobile number first; on Facebook, by contrast, it’s usually very easy to locate someone and send a quick message that way.
Facebook isn’t the first to try and replace SMS and it surely won’t be the last, and email is most certainly here to stay, but this Messenger update does enable Facebook to make a grab for a slice of the mobile market pie.