Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images
By David Z. Morris
June 11, 2016

Facebook users are receiving emails and notifications that photos synced from their mobile devices will be deleted from their Facebook accounts unless they migrate to Moments, Facebook’s separate photo app.

The push may not affect a large percentage of Facebook users. PhotoSync was an optional feature, introduced to Facebook’s mobile app in 2012, that uploaded photos taken on a mobile device to a private Facebook folder until users chose to share them publicly. The feature was discontinued last January.

PhotoSync was not enabled by default, so in theory, users should already have some awareness of what they’ve signed up for. And the threatened deletions don’t seem to apply to photos manually uploaded to Facebook, from mobile or desktop.

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However, the move comes just days after Facebook began notifying its mobile messaging users that they would be essentially forced to install the separate Messenger app. And, as with the Messenger initiative, some users and industry watchers see this as a heavy-handed push to download yet another app, with some still concerned about privacy.

Facebook has said that its strategy of spinning off certain features into standalone apps is focused on user experience, since each app can be more robust and carefully tailored. But the move is, conveniently, also beneficial to the company, since the separate apps provide more flexibility for monetization (read: Advertising).

It also allows them to more directly compete with independent apps that have edged into their turf. Social photography is pretty much owned by Instagram—although, of course, Instagram is already owned by Facebook. Facebook also owns WhatsApp, one of the main counterparts to Messenger.

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The long-term strategy of one parent company running separate apps providing such similar services isn’t clear, but there is some product differentiation going on. While Instagram is built around a public, linear feed, Moments is pitched as something a little more complex and close-knit. Users can put together collaborative albums with friends, and photos are organized according to who’s in them.

The grousing of a vocal minority aside, Facebook’s aggressive approach will probably win Moments many more users. Messenger, after getting similar treatment, now has more than 900 million users.

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