Here's the thing... I already tried Messenger on my iPhone a while ago... AND I *UNINSTALLED* IT!
I don't want a separate messaging app. I already have a ton of those. When I am in Facebook I want to do all my Facebook activities and messaging within the one app. I tried Messenger and found the switching between the apps to be painful enough that I wanted nothing to do with it.
Now... in fairness, being someone who tends toward the "early adopter" stage, it was a while ago that I tried Messenger and before their "big update", so presumably they've made improvements. As Facebook so helpfully tells me, 190 of my friends use Messenger already. Knowing some of the people whose images I see on that ad Facebook show me, I can't imagine them tolerating a poor user experience... so yes, perhaps I should try it again.
But it's annoying to be forced to do so. Basically what it says to me is "we (FB) have tried every incentive possible to get people to move, but they aren't, so now we're going to make them move." Facebook already forced most of their European users to make the switch - but now they are making everyone switch.
There has been a great amount of media attention to this move today, and I received the email directly this morning:
The text itself says:
We wanted to let you know that messages are moving out of the Facebook app to our Messenger app, a free app that's faster and more reliable for everyday messaging. Messenger also includes: new ways to send photos and videos, voice calls, stickers, group conversations and more.
Soon, we'll start guiding you to get started with Messenger. After a few days, you'll also see a reminder notice in the Facebook app, where you'd normally see your messages. At that point, we'll ask you to install Messenger or go to the Facebook website to view and send messages. You'll still see new message notifications in the Facebook app, and it'll be easy to switch between Facebook and Messenger.
We appreciate your taking the time to install Messenger and know it will take a little while to adjust to using a second app. We look forward to sharing this fast, fun and reliable way of messaging with you. You can learn more here.
Where the "Soon, we'll start guiding you..." is really just marketing-speak for "Soon, you'll have no choice if you want to continue using Facebook messaging on your mobile phone."
The Bigger Picture
I understand why Facebook is doing this. They want a separate, lean "messaging" app that integrates tightly with your mobile phone operating system (iOS or Android). They want it so integrated that eventually you use it only and stop using the messaging app that is part of your o/s.
On my iPhone Apple has done a brilliant job with the "Messages" app integrating Apple's iMessage service in with regular SMS text messages. By default Apple tries to send your message via their OTT messaging service (iMessage) and then falls back to SMS when the recipient isn't registered with iMessage.
Facebook wants you to use their Messenger app as your default messenging app. They would like me to replace Apple's "Messages" with their "Messenger" app as my place to go do send a message. So they need a lean and focused messenging app to do this.
The OTT War For Mobile Messaging Dominance
And this IS the end-game. The war now is for which of the many "Over-The Top" (OTT) apps will be the replacement for the dying world of SMS messaging. People aren't sending as many actual SMS messages and are instead using:
- iMessage from Apple
- Facebook Messaging
- WhatsApp (also now from Facebook)
- Line from NHN
- WeChat from Tencent
- Hangouts from Google (as part of Google+ or separate)
- Skype from Microsoft
- Blackberry Messenger (BBM - see update note below)
and probably another hundred smaller ones.
[UPDATE: A Canadian friend noted that I missed Blackberry Messenger (BBM) in the list and while I admittedly don't think about BBM that much these days, he's right that there is still a population that uses it on their smartphones.]
And yes, these are all separate "walled gardens" of propriety messaging (as I wrote about back in 2007, although the names have changed substantially). You can't message someone on a different system. You both have to be part of the same system - or potentially the system may fall back to sending a SMS message as iMessage does.
The attempts to lock Internet users into closed, proprietary walled gardens continues.
Make your app easy and simple to use... and get the most people using your app so that they won't want to switch to some other app.
The Broader OTT War For Mobile Communications
Notice, too, that Facebook mentions using Messenger for "voice calls". With this on iOS they are clearly aiming to take on Apple's "Facetime Audio" that Apple now presents as an option each time you make a call. And they can take on Microsoft's Skype and Google's Hangouts.
Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
All trying to be THE app/service that you use for communication on your mobile device. (And you can probably expect folks like Amazon to enter the game at some point, too.)
Giants on the playground.
And who is missing are the past giants of telecom. The "telcos"... the "carriers"... the "service providers". They are well on their way to being commoditized down to "big, fat, dumb pipes" of data... and they don't like that.
Hence you see them trying to coming out with their own apps and services (as Telefonica has done) or trying to come out with a rival offering such as Joyn (which Dean Bubley rips apart while pointing out the fallacy of talking of the "messaging market")... or using their control of the underlying data network to slow or block services... or using their powerful lobbying capabilities to attempt to get governments to regulate or intervene.
THIS is why so many of the upcoming ITU events matter. THIS is why the discussions on "network neutrality" matter.
The war for the future of mobile communications is well underway... and Facebook's move this week is just part of that much larger battle.
Even if that move will severely annoy Facebook users like me... most of whom will, of course, suck it up and install Messenger... because whether we like it or not we do want to communicate with Facebook users while mobile.
You can also listen to audio commentary on this topic:
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