Facebook has overhauled its Messenger chat app to make it simpler to use.
The social media giant said Tuesday that the new Messenger 4 app improves on the older version that became overloaded on features that cluttered the basic chat interface.
The new version of Facebook Messenger retains the same features as the older version, like the ability for people to create custom polls with friends and family members that use Messenger and show those connections one’s whereabouts.
Facebook decided to “build a new foundation” for the chat app instead of continuing to add additional features to the previous version in order for the app “to be simple again,” said Facebook vice president of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky during a press briefing. Chudnovsky now leads Facebook Messenger after former Messenger chief David Marcus was moved to oversee a new unspecified blockchain project at Facebook.
The biggest change to Facebook Messenger is the reduction of the amount of tabs within the chat app from nine to three, said Facebook Messenger director of product Loredana Crisan. These tabs include one for Chats, People, and Discover.
The Chats tab is the main hub where people can send each other texts or launch video calls to other Messenger users. The People tab is where Messenger users can see which one of their connections is online and if those people have shared any stories, which are the short collages of video, photos, and text that messaging company Snap popularized and which Facebook mimicked for its Instagram photo app and other services.
Chudnovsky said that 300 million people use stories each day on Facebook and Messenger, but he did not say how many of those people viewed stories specifically within Messenger.
Finally, the Discover tab is where people can play basic video games with other Messenger connections or chat with companies that have built connections with Messenger. Facebook has been pushing Messenger to be a sort of customer-support hub between companies and their users, in which people can have rudimentary chats with support staff or so-called chat bots to help them troubleshoot problems.
Facebook said there are now 10 billion messages sent between companies and Messenger users, which is 2 billion more than what the company said in May. There are also 300,000 active chatbots on Messenger, which is the same number Facebook said in May, suggesting that businesses have stalled their chatbot projects over the past several months.
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The revamped Facebook Messenger also has a minor update that lets people choose display colors in their conversations, giving it a more playful feel. Additionally, a later update will let people switch to a “dark mode” that Facebook said will help reduce smartphone glare by having a predominantly black background.
As for when Facebook plans to debut advertising within Messenger stories, Chudnovsky said that the company is testing story ads and “if all goes well then we will at some point in early 2019 will announce them.”
“We try to be very careful to not do anything bad for user experience,” Chudnovsky said of the company’s process of slowly introducing more advertisements.