Facebook is forcing users to download its standalone Messenger app for iOS and Android if they want to continue chatting with a smartphone. The company, which recently purchased WhatsApp for a staggering $19 billion, is trying to register higher adoption in North America, and is using any means at its disposal — including potentially pissing off a large contingent of its user base — to achieve it.
Like Dropbox, Facebook is intent on building an ecosystem of separate mobile apps destined for specific functions as it moves away from being “merely” a social network. Messenger has become a core tenet of its business, as the company sells stickers through its own store, and furthers the brand without inundating users with ads.
Not everyone will be forced to download Messenger, though. Older Android phones with insufficient memory capacity for the newer, sleeker Facebook Messenger will be able to continue chatting within Facebook proper; and Windows Phone users won’t be required to migrate away from main app for chatting, even though Facebook worked with Microsoft to release a standalone Messenger app earlier this year.
Facebook is trying to make the transition as easy as possible by making Messenger far more compelling as a standalone product. Integrating VoIP calling, group messaging and picture sharing is just the start of what the company wants to be an ecosystem of chat apps that span every computing platform. A tablet version of Messenger is expected for iPad in the coming weeks, too. Android users may also benefit from the change, as the core app will be smaller and therefore load faster.