Facebook Drops the Curtain on Mobile Web Chat, Pushing Users to Messenger

June 5, 2016, 4:28 PM UTC
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduces a new messenger platform at the F8 summit in San Francisco, California, on March 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JOSH EDELSON (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Josh Edelson—AFP via Getty Images

TechCrunch reports that Facebook has begun to notify users of its mobile web interface that chat features will be removed soon. When mobile web users access their messages, a popup notifies them that “Your conversations are moving to Messenger. Soon you’ll only be able to view your messages from Messenger.” A link to download the standalone app is included.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Facebook has been slowly working to separate its messaging and newsfeed features on mobile. Messaging features were removed from the core Facebook app in 2014, with a popup similar to the new web message directing users to download Messenger.

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The transition is fundamentally about pushing users to an app that’s better at driving revenue than the simple text-chat feature within the main Facebook platform. Messenger opened up to third-party apps early last year, allowing for both more robust media sharing, chat bots, and business functions like package tracking. The broader ambition is to turn messenger into an “everything app” with a broad array of features.

But the final push to get all Facebook chat into Messenger may alienate a portion of users. Some had been hesitant to install Messenger after it was revealed that the app tracks users’ location, though anxiety about location-based mobile features seems to have receded somewhat.

Speaking for myself, it feels inefficient to have to keep tabs on two separate programs instead of one. In fact, since they were removed from the mobile app, I’ve found myself treating Facebook messages more like email—something I respond to daily, mostly on my laptop, instead of something I check minute-by-minute.

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Other problems are less abstract. Cutting chat out of the web app will make it harder for a user to access their messages through someone else’s phone, say in an emergency. And, as TechCrunch points out, some outdated or unusual phones may not be compatible with the Messenger app. Nonetheless, a Facebook (FB) representative assured TechCrunch that the transition was about assuring the “best experience” for users.

User frustration aside, Facebook’s aggressive push on Messenger has worked—it reached 800 million monthly active users at the end of 2015.

For now, users can still access mobile web messaging after clicking past the warning popup, but the feature is expected to be removed entirely sometime this summer.

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