Facebook attracts more than a billion mobile users each month and 66 percent of its revenues come from this channel. In fact, mobile users spend 20 percent of their mobile time on Facebook!
Facebook’s success on mobile, whether from the point of view of the audience size or monetization, is unparalleled.
Instagram and WhatsApp (acquired respectively in April 2012 and February 2014) are two other social apps also with phenomenal audience success, although several notches below. They’re not profit centers yet and will not be discussed here.
What about the blue giant’s mobile diversification strategy beyond the main app and purchased successes?
Facebook Messenger — the standalone app where Facebook users check messages — has hit 500 million monthly active users, the company announced Monday.
The controversial app, which was attacked for confusingly-worded and scary-sounding permissions, launched in 2011 and has grown considerably. Nearly half of Facebook’s 1.35 billion users now have the Messenger app on their phone.
Facebook’s Peter Martinazzi, Director of Product Management, wrote a Newsroom post about Messenger’s newest milestone:
Today more than 500 million people are using Messenger each month and we’re more committed than ever to make it the best possible messaging experience.
Messenger was the first of our standalone apps, and unlike our core Facebook apps, it focused on one use case – messaging. With Messenger, you can reach people instantly. It is just as fast as SMS but gives you the ability to express yourself in ways that SMS can’t. You can send stickers or videos, take selfies, chat with groups and make free calls. We’ve also continued to improve speed and reliability. Updates to Messenger ship every two weeks so it continues to evolve and improve.
As Facebook unbundled messaging from the main mobile app, the company started making major improvements to its standalone Facebook Messenger app. A blog post by Facebook engineers Jeremy Fein and Jason Jenks shows how the social network made Messenger more efficient.
Fein and Jenks wrote that Messenger has decreased non-media data usage by 40 percent (developing a new service called Iris to power it). Users have taken note of improvements to Messenger, as there has been a 20 percent dip in the number of people who experience errors when trying to send a message.
Fein and Jenks wrote of what it took to revamp the Facebook Messenger app:
Messaging data has traditionally been stored on spinning disks. In the pull-based model, we’d write to disk before sending a trigger to Messenger to read from disk. Thus, this giant storage tier would serve real-time message data as well as the full conversation history. One large storage tier doesn’t scale well to synchronize recent messages to the app in real time. So in order to support this new, faster sync protocol and maintain consistency between the Messenger app and long-term storage, we need to be able to stream the same sequence of updates in real time to Messenger and to the storage tier in parallel on a per user basis.
Despite widespread panic over privacy concerns, a new infographic from GlobalWebIndex shows that the adoption of Facebook Messenger continues to grow in many countries. This may be somewhat unsurprising, given that Facebook has unbundled messaging from the main app and pushed that feature into its Messenger app.
GlobalWebIndex notes that Facebook Messenger is now the world’s second-most-popular messaging app, behind another Facebook entity — WhatsApp. In the U.K., the percentage of mobile users with Facebook Messenger rose from 27 percent at the end of 2013 to 40 percent midway through 2014.
Here’s a look at Facebook Messenger’s top markets internationally, ranked by the share of mobile audience.
Facebook is addressing the fear associated with its Messenger application. Some mobile users are seeing a prompt atop News Feed, titled Messenger: Myths vs. Facts, according to a story in TheNextWeb.
Much of the unease over Facebook’s Messenger app — which is now the only way, other than mobile browser, that Facebook users can check and respond to messages — comes from a fear-mongering Huffington Post article and a story from a radio station, both of which have been widely circulated around the social network.
Facebook is now answering these rumors. When a user who sees the prompt taps “Learn More,” it leads them to a post explaining the truths about Facebook Messenger and privacy.
As Facebook is unbundling its Facebook Messenger capabilities, turning off messages within the main app, reaction from users has been swift and negative.
Much of the paranoia is fueled by a Huffington Post story from November 2013, as well as a post by a radio station in Houston — both written to stoke fear within Facebook users.
While Facebook Messenger on Android does ask for several permissions that seem privacy-invasive, these actions cannot happen without manual user action. Facebook Messenger will not call people on your behalf or alter your network for Mark Zuckerberg’s benefit.
So why does it all seem so invasive? Mashable has an amazing post breaking down every single permission the Messenger app asks for, explaining why the app needs them.
Facebook has made some significant moves recently in the mobile world — releasing a Snapchat competitor in Slingshot and hiring away David Marcus from PayPal to lead mobile messaging.
As Marcus’ hiring leads many to see a time when Facebook users can someday send money through Messenger, Tango Chief Technology Officer Eric Setton notes that several Asian messaging apps have already mastered the frontier of maximizing time spent on mobile, as well as monetization. He talked with Inside Facebook recently about how Marcus’ hiring signals that Facebook may start borrowing traits from apps such as Tango, WeChat and Line. Tango is a messaging app with 200 million users — 70 million of which are in the U.S., Setton says.
Inside Facebook: What do you think the hiring of David Marcus means for Facebook?
Eric Setton: The way I see it, Facebook is finally noticing and can basically not ignore the innovation happening in other services … and will have to play the game and have to open the platform on the messaging side as well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that David Marcus has such a strong expertise in payments. If you have an app that people check 30 or 40 times a day, that’s a great opportunity to be able to connect you to more things. I think this is a great bridge to commerce and distribution at large.
Not long after a new Facebook messaging app was discovered, Facebook announced that PayPal President David Marcus has joined the company as Vice President of Messaging Products.
He will work to improve the Facebook Messenger app, but a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that WhatsApp will continue to run independently. After the acquisition of his company, Zong, Marcus joined PayPal in 2011 as Vice President of Mobile, leading the company’s mobile payments business. He was promoted to President last year.
Facebook welcomed Marcus in a Newsroom blog post, explaining his role with the social network:
Messaging is a core part of Facebook’s service and key to achieving our mission of making the world more open and connected. Every day around 12 billion messages are sent on Facebook, and in April we announced that Messenger, our standalone messaging app, is now used by more than 200 million people every month. We’re excited by the potential to continue developing great new messaging experiences that better serve the Facebook community and reach even more people, and David will be leading these efforts.
Facebook has been prompting mobile users to invite their friends to download Messenger, but now it appears that soon there won’t be a choice.
Facebook has confirmed to Inside Facebook that Facebook has plans to remove the messaging feature from its flagship mobile app and force the use of Messenger if users want to send messages from their phone or tablet:
Today we are starting to notify people that messages are moving out of the Facebook app and over to the Messenger app. To continue sending messages on mobile, people will need to install the Messenger app.
It looks like Facebook may be testing a new design for its flagship Android app, bringing home some visual elements — namely, more white — present in its Messenger app.
Inside Facebook reader Thodoris Konsoulas of Greece noticed that the Facebook for Android design is markedly different, as seen above. He is not in the Facebook for Android beta testing group, he noted.
We’ve reached out to Facebook about this and will update the story if we hear back.