Facebook is walking back its decision to push users to download its Messenger app, five years after its move caused widespread criticism.
In a tweet, app researcher Jane Manchun Wong uploaded a screenshot of the new integrated chat function. In the top right corner, you can see the same Messenger icon that brings you to a chat window right in the main app itself. Right now, if you want to chat via Facebook on mobile, the app will immediately switch you over to Messenger or prompt you to download it if you don’t have it already.
Facebook is bringing the Chats back to the app for preparing integrated messaging
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 12, 2019
Wong’s screenshots of the functionality show Facebook’s proposed white redesign for the app, which was first spotted at the beginning of January, and which we got a better look at in March. The interface closely mirrors Facebook Messenger’s white redesign, which was made widely available at the beginning of this year. It’s unclear when the new Messaging integration or interface might become available.
The announcement has been widely praised by users who haven’t wanted to download and use another app to message their Facebook friends.
Though many people are pleased, Facebook’s decision was probably not made to gain users’ favor, but instead prepare for better incorporating Instagram and WhatsApp into the Facebook platform.
The Verge reported:
Messenger was first released as a standalone app back in 2011, and in 2014 Facebook removed its functionality from its eponymous app. Half a decade later, as Facebook prepares to integrate its messaging services across Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the functionality appears to be returning.
A single app combining Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp isn’t currently in the plans, however.
Reports have pointed to Facebook keeping each of its social media channels “distinct,” which is probably a smart move considering that each cater to different demographics and geographic locales. Instagram’s largest user segment is younger than Facebook and India is WhatsApp’s biggest market in the world.
This likely does not mean the end of Messenger and the bundling of everything into one monster app. The NYT‘s report claimed Facebook is looking to keep the services distinct, while merging the data in the back end. Facebook reportedly expects to integrate these services by 2020.
Some users might still prefer to use the Messenger app—presenting a challenge to retain people’s attention and time spent within Facebook’s ecosystem if Messenger is removed completely.
As you’d expect, the discovery has been greeted with cheers from many users who were disgruntled when Facebook yanked chat from the app all those years ago. I can’t help but wonder, however, if there are more people today who are content with using Messenger to chat without the entire Facebook service bolted on. Given all of Facebook’s missteps over the past year or two, consumer opinion of the social network has never been lower, which raises the appeal of using it to connect with friends but without engaging its advertising or news feed.
For now, Messenger will remain as a standalone app, giving Facebook users more options to privately communicate with their contacts through the platform.
Facebook’s announcement is a heads up to communicators that additional changes with Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are on the horizon, but it also stands as a reminder that you can rethink unpopular decisions—even years later.
What do you think of Facebook’s move?