A Time article came out this morning revealing Facebook’s newest mobile intentions. The company is creating a new version of the messenger app for Android that only requires a name and phone number, without needing an actual Facebook. Although the app is only available in South Africa, India, Australia, Indonesia, and Venezuela, it’s projected to be implemented in the U.S and all countries in the near future. The app allows users to chat with no cost and without having to be logged into Facebook. According to Facebook it’s attempting to “assault the lowly text message”. However, if Facebook wants to take over the messaging game it has steep competition coming from SMS messaging and other apps, including the popular WhatsApp and Viber.
The problem with Facebook’s ambition to take over the messaging scene is that SMS has a monopoly of sorts on messaging. Most people use texting as there primer choice for communication along with emailing and the occasional phone call if people are feeling social. According to Portio Research, standard text messaging handles an average of 21 billion messages per day! Usually users associate Facebook messaging as a means of communicating with someone if you don’t have his or her number or if you’re on Facebook and you want to message someone on the computer. It’s primarily a computer based communication system like the once popular AOL that has now taken an antiquated status. Although SMS messaging can be very expensive when communicating to foreign recipients, it has a well-established network already in place for most cellphone users. It would be inconvenient to commit to using the Messenger app when your cellphone has built-in SMS functionality. Once you’re committed to using the messenger app the conversation is locked into Facebook unless you have the appropriate Android phone that integrates your conversation into text messages. When you send a text message your under the impression that your messages will arrive instantaneous to the recipient, however the messenger app seems to hold less confidence that it will get to their desired locations by its users.
The only way to truly threaten the success of SMS is if Facebook Messenger took a note from Apple’s iMessage. iMessage automatically replaces SMS messages with iPhone users. This type of smartphone integration could be utilized if Facebook came out with it’s own smartphone. Based on Facebook’s mobile track record it’s safe to say this may not happen in the near future. In addition, other well-established apps bring steep competition. Rival WhatsApp is already a Top 5 messaging app in 141 countries servicing 10 billion messages per day. It looks like Facebook has a hard battle to take over a messaging game where there are many networks already place, then again there were well established social networks in place when Facebook was created, which played out rather nicely for Facebook. Sit back and see were the Facebook Messenger goes.