Facebook Messenger Nets 500 Million Users - InformationWeek

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Facebook Messenger Nets 500 Million Users

Facebook's rocky rollout of its Messenger app has paid off, with its user base more than doubling since making it mandatory for users who want to chat.

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Facebook's wildly unpopular move to force Messenger on users is paying off. The social network announced on Monday that its app reached 500 million monthly active users -- more than doubling in size since Facebook uncoupled it from its flagship app.

Facebook first confirmed its plans to kill the messaging feature in its main iOS and Android apps in April. "We have built a fast and reliable messaging experience through Messenger, and now it makes sense for us to focus all our energy and resources on that experience," a Facebook spokesperson told InformationWeek at the time.

But the transition, which began in July, drew the ire of many Facebook users, who complained that downloading a second app was unreasonable. Android users logged nearly 800,000 one-star reviews of the app while the iOS version averaged just a one-star rating after only a few weeks. Ratings have improved slightly since then, as users acclimate to managing both apps.

While nearly half of Facebook's 1.3 billion users worldwide have accepted Messenger, Facebook's decision is still a hot topic. In a Q&A session last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed its move to make Messenger mandatory, saying that the standalone app is better and faster than the built-in feature -- as long as all your friends use the app, too.

[Here's what you can and can't control. Read Facebook Messenger: 5 Misconceptions.]

"Asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask," Zuckerberg said. "Asking folks to install another app is a short-term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on service... we had to build a dedicated and focused experience. This is some of the hardest stuff we do, is making these choices. We realize that we have a lot to earn in terms of trust and proving that this standalone messenger experience will be really good."

Zuckerberg also acknowledged that it wasn't a popular decision among users, admitting that "maybe we didn't handle that as smoothly as we could, in terms of transition."

In April, the company disclosed that Messenger had 200 million users. Seven months later, the app has more than doubled in size -- and remains on-pace to catch WhatsApp's 600 million monthly active users. Facebook acquired WhatsApp earlier this year for $19 billion.

While uncoupling the messaging feature from its main app may not be popular among users, Facebook isn't the only social network to do so. In May Foursquare split into two apps -- one exclusively for check-ins, called Swarm, and its rebranded main app for reviews. LinkedIn has also launched a number of standalone apps that concentrate on singular features, including its Connected and Job Search apps.

As Messenger grows, the social network has continued to invest in its features. Users can make free calls -- including international ones -- over WiFi; send pictures, videos, and voice messages; and use its own set of emoticons, which it calls Stickers.

Facebook also recently hired former PayPal president David Marcus as its VP of messaging products to monetize Messenger's growing user base. Just last month, screenshots surfaced that indicated the app is already equipped to handle person-to-person mobile payments.

Messenger's payment feature reportedly lets users add a debit card or use one already on file. Users start by tapping a button inside Messenger and entering the amount they want to transfer, then tap a button to complete the transaction.

During Facebook's second-quarter earnings call in July, Zuckerberg acknowledged that there would be "some overlap" between payments and its Messenger service, hinting that it could take "multiple years" to get it right.

"The payments piece will be part of what will help drive the overall success and help people share with each other and interact with businesses," Zuckerberg said. "We have a lot of work to do, and we could take the cheap and easy approach and just try to put ads in or do payments and make some money in the short term, but we're not going to do that."

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2014 | 6:03:47 PM
Re: Messenger
Can you imagine if every other app developer made downloads mandatory to access certain features? That would cause an uproar, for sure. 
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 1:53:12 PM
I gave in and downloaded after someone who matters to me tried to message and I could not get the message the old way. Reluctantly gave in. Is that a way to build a loyal customer base?
User Rank: Ninja
11/12/2014 | 10:52:38 AM
Re: Respect
all good points, @brian.dean 


As for monetizing messaging, I wonder how much the telcos pull in on all those customers that have a per message charge of 10 cents.
User Rank: Strategist
11/12/2014 | 1:25:32 AM
Re: Respect
Facebook still has a lot of work to do on Messenger. Even though 500 million is a huge number, it's less than half of the 1.35 billion monthly users that Facebook proper receives. And at the same time, it's still falling short of WhatsApp, which has over 600 million monthly users and doesn't get the benefit of heavy integration and promotion from Facebook.
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 11:15:41 PM
Re: Respect
Monetizing messaging to generate revenue is an interesting topic, because so far it has been difficult to deliver ads in an environment where a limited amount of people are interacting. Maybe, Messenger will become the ads delivery platform for other apps.

The ability for individuals and businesses to transfer cash from one debit card to another would be beneficial to the economy. However, Facebook needs to improve its overall payment accepting ecosystem before any significant improvements are observed and they need to at least create live customer support for paying customers. 
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 6:50:19 PM
Re: Respect
>> I'm sure all 500 million of the users of Messenger look forward to being monetized.

We seem to be past the point where most of us know, or care
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/11/2014 | 5:39:06 PM
Re: Respect
I'm sure all 500 million of the users of Messenger look forward to being monetized.
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 1:03:21 PM
While I don't pretend to like Zuckerberg's stance on everything, especially privacy, I admire his steasfastness in the face of so much negativity. Time and again Facebook has made big sweeping changes to its site and policies and faced huge outcries from the user base - and yet the company sticks to its guns and gives people a time to aclimatise. 

After which they often admit that the new system is better. 

This is something I wish more companies would do. You regularly see people fired over this or that because of a handful of people complained and a few blogs wrote scathing articles. If these companies had half the backbone that Facebook did, we wouldn't see anywhere near as much backpedalling. 

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