Why is Facebook Messenger a separate app? Zuckerberg explains


facebook messenger

Facebook has never made the most sensible or popular changes to their apps over the years. In fact, almost all of their changes are met with choruses of discontent and anguish. One such change was the split of Messenger from the main app into its own little world. It made little sense at the time, but Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg sure felt it was the right decision and despite the outrage from millions of the social network’s users he wasn’t going to budge.

mark zuckerberg

The company has long danced around the question of “why” with a collection of vague responses, but the head honcho finally decided to speak on it in a more open manner. Zuckerberg tackled the issue during his first ever public Q&A session with an explanation that actually makes more sense than you may think:

Asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask. I appreciate that that was work and required friction. We wanted to do this because we believe that this is a better experience. Messaging is becoming increasingly important. On mobile, each app can only focus on doing one thing well, we think.

The primary purpose of the Facebook app is News Feed. Messaging was this behavior people were doing more and more. 10 billion messages are sent per day, but in order to get to it you had to wait for the app to load and go to a separate tab. We saw that the top messaging apps people were using were their own app. These apps that are fast and just focused on messaging. You’re probably messaging people 15 times per day. Having to go into an app and take a bunch of steps to get to messaging is a lot of friction.

Messaging is one of the few things people do more than social networking. In some countries 85 percent of people are on Facebook, but 95 percent of people use SMS or messaging. Asking folks to install another app is a short term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on serving this well, we had to build a dedicated and focused experience. We build for the whole community. Why wouldn’t we let people choose to install the app on their own at their own pace? The reason is that what we’re trying to do is build a service that’s good for everyone. Because Messenger is faster and more focused, if you’re using it, you respond to messages faster, we’ve found.

The reason I say it makes sense? You needn’t look much further than the company who makes the very mobile operating system we talk about on Phandroid each and every day. Google could have easily merged Hangouts with the Google+ or Gmail apps on Android and iOS, especially considering the service it originally spawned from — Google Talk — was only accessible while using Gmail or a few of Google’s other web-based products.


Instead, Google decided to make Hangouts its own experience, and that could be a contributing factor to why it’s grown to be what it is now. Hangouts can be the simple messaging platform or SMS alternative you need it to be, or you can use it to conduct big group chats, video conference calls and even place free calls to countries around the world. While all that same goodness could have come to Hangouts in any form, having it in its own app keeps all of Google’s other apps from being overly confusing or bloated, and it makes it easier to highlight Hangouts’ value-packed feature set.

Looking at Facebook, there’s no reason anyone should blame them for wanting to do the same. Facebook’s viability as a messaging platform is growing each and every day, even if only for the sheer fact that it’s more likely that your friends and family are using it compared to messaging-focused services like GroupMe or WhatsApp. Facebook knows this, and they want to leverage that position to grow the service beyond a simple messaging tool to augment the base social experience. If they feel this is the way to do it, then we can’t say we know any better.

It’s easy to berate Facebook whenever they make sweeping changes and force users to adapt instead of giving them choice. In fact, it’s almost always a bad thing when choice is taken out of the equation. But in this instance, I can’t say I disagree with Mark Zuckerberg’s explanation as to why they’ve split Messenger off into its own app and forced everyone to get used to it.

And now that I think about it, I probably do enjoy Facebook Messenger a lot more now that I don’t have to venture into the messy app Facebook has become. That’s another story for another day, though. For now, we want to hear your thoughts on Zuckerberg’s explanation. Whether or not you agree, be sure to drop a line in the comments and — in the spirit of voting season — participate in the poll below.

[polldaddy poll=8431941]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. Which brings me to my next question, why even use Facebook in the first place?

    1. Why bother commenting? Oh right, you’re a douche.

      1. He’s too hipster for Facebook.

        1. It’s funny, kids are already thinking of Facebook as their parent’s app. My daughter’s friends all use Instagram for status updates.

          1. Who uses Instagram for status updates? Probably just a phase for them. I thought Instagram would forever be the home of the foodie, the hipster and bored women.

          2. #omgjonnyjustaskedmetoprom
            I imagine that’s what their status updates look like. Idk as I only have Facebook and no other social media.

          3. From what I know about hashtags is people either use 1 short one or about half a dozen. I can imagine there being people who put such terrible hashtags somewhere. Just post a sentence instead of a massive hashtag.

            Since you don’t seem to like hashtags too much either you should take a look at this:


          4. Don’t you know that every Instagram user is now a professional photographer?

          5. In the same way that I believe that the Earth is flat, that Creationists are right about everything and that Scientologists aren’t psychotic, sure.

          6. And who owns instagram?

          7. It’s true. They take a brooding B&W of their untied shoes and call themselves photographers just the same. Adults see sites for functionality. It’s a shame kids can’t do the same.

    2. because people have lives and are social and not lonely weirdos…or in bad relationships where your sig wont let u have it

      1. People were social long before Facebook (or the internet). Actually seeing people face-to-face or actually speaking to them on the phone is far more social than interactions on social media.

        1. Exactly my point

    3. As I have gotten older more and more of my friends and family have moved away. Facebook is a good way to keep up with their lives.

  2. I liked it when they broke it out, the facebook app has always been a bit clunky and he’s right, why do I need to wait for the app to load when I just want to respond to a message. Also the floating head notification is cool and convenient. I think it was a good move, and have thought so from the start.

    1. I like the Chat Heads way more than I thought I would.

      1. I almost had a brain aneurysm when the chat heads first came to me. It being turned on by default only had me thinking one thing while trying to figure out how to turn it off:

  3. So why is messaging still a tab in my Facebook app? Riddle me that, batman

    1. To link you to the messenger app since most people are stubborn.

    2. I think it’s safe to say it won’t be in the future.

    3. links you to the app…instead of leaving and opening a seperate app

    4. Whats weird is that I was forced at one point on my M8 to download the messenger app to continue conversations. All of a sudden during the last 2 updates I have been able to continue messaging within the facebook application itself and got rid of messenger again. What they really need to fix is the heavy use of peoples cookies on their computers…its so f’n eerie how much of my feed is littered with useless posts with adverts or off-shoot articles about celebrities, just based on your cookies…My feed is not even showing me 50% of posts by friends at times…its just littered with crap..

  4. Now if I could just convince all my friends to get on Google+ I could ditch the Facebook $h1t entirely. That would be the day!

    1. Good luck lol

  5. They should let us have the choice. Leave messaging built in to the FB app but if you have the Messenger app installed, THEN forward you to that app when you click on the tab. I stopped using FB for messaging when they required a new app…probably not their desired result.

  6. I never have and never will install their messaging app. so that isn’t working with me. Now, with their decision to try to track me all over the web I have uninstalled every instance of even the Facebook app and log into Facebook a couple of times a week but only from a VM which I only use for Facebook so all they are tracking is themselves. The net of it is that I used to post photos to Facebook almost daily and check on friends a few times a day. Now they have lost that.

    1. So because of your paranoia, you keep yourself from enjoying online social interaction?

      “You have zero privacy anyway, Get over it.” – Scott McNealy, SunMicrosystems, 1999

      1. Not wanting to be tracked isn’t paranoia, nor is desiring some privacy. As for the McNealy quote, it’s self-serving and false. You can have privacy if you’re willing to go to the effort to maintain it (which is getting harder and harder unfortunately).

  7. It makes sense but could they make their apps a little less battery hungry? google+ and hangouts barely ever register on my battery list and I use them way more PLUS i have their location turned on. Facebook while greenified and location and notifications turned off, keeps waking up the phone even though it’s hibernated. This is just with their facebook app alone. Even if I had a 3000mah+ battery I’d be annoyed by it’s activity.

    1. You’re one of 3 people that actually use Google+

      1. 4, I’m brainwashing my daughter as we speak :)

        1. Good job. If enough people moved to g+ I’d leave Fb :p

          Shabbat shalom

      2. It’s good for YT comments and doesn’t drain battery.

    2. G+ no, Hangouts sucks the life out of Nexus.

      1. Maybe something is wrong with your hangouts. Clear data and cache. I use it for texting and messaging and its always lower on the processes and alarms list in my battery stats. Every now and then it’ll get stuck but Facebook is an everyday problem. It’s the same way on iOS. On my wife’s iPhone it’s always above hangouts and Google plus on the battery usage.

        1. Ive got the dialer on.

  8. I barely use it, so i don’t care much.

  9. “On mobile, each app can only focus on doing one thing well, we think.”

    What does the official Facebook app do well? Honestly struggling here

    1. Facebook isn’t referring to just Facebook. Look at the bigger picture and include their acquisitions:

      1) WhatsApp does well with essential communication, especially in international markets.
      2) Instagram does well with customizing and sharing photos to your friends.
      3) Messenger does well with communication amongst your FB friends.
      4) Facebook does well as a social network — sharing articles, statuses, ecommerce, business engagements, or just social in general.

      Haven’t you noticed the trends section, and that more articles are getting shared on FB every day? Or the rumors about introducing ecommerce on Facebook? It’s clear that FB is becoming more media driven, and they’re trying to take advantage of it by showing more resourceful and useful content, than dealing with just the people we know.

      Another thought: Say FB were to throw all their apps (Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger) on the Facebook app. Would you prefer that slower experience over just multitasking on your phone?

      We’re given a choice, and it’s clear we have 4 apps from FB (beside the other failed apps) to choose from.

      1. My issue isn’t with Facebook having services as separate apps, I love the messenger app and think Facebook made a great choice in separating them.

        My issue is that the Facebook app is pure shite. The layout is unintuitive, doesn’t use any elements of Android’s design guidelines, is slow, doesn’t have a lot of the functionality of the desktop site (I think it only very recently got the ability to untag photos on mobile), has no tablet layout (the app is an absolute joke when used in landscape on my new N9) and some of its features are completely broken (example- my girlfriend uploaded around 20 photos with the Facebook app on her M8, tagged relevant people in all the different photos, but rather than have the different tags for different photos, Facebook tagged everyone in every photo. So suddenly each photo had 18 tags on it, of everybody who was in any photo anywhere in that album, even photos of landscapes and sunsets, etc).

        I would far rather Facebook focused on making their app an intuitive, reliable and enjoyable experience before working on new features like e-commerce to get their investors money.

  10. So all the teenagers ruined it for the rest of us? I refuse to download it. I only send maybe one or 2 messages a week through it. It’s also too large compared to the integrated facebook/messenger app and no need for 2 apps. It didn’t take anywhere near long enough to use messenger as they are implying. It loaded in a matter of 2-3 seconds. OH NO! MY APP DIDN’T RESPOND IMMEDIATELY! MUST RAGE!

  11. Facebook messenger is a very badly designed application. Dead to the bubbles! My OS already has a notification system and it works just fine.
    Also having both facebook + messenger on a phone takes too much RAM.

  12. this doesnt really affect me since i hardly use facebook for messaging. i have hangouts, whatsapp, sms for that. though i much preferred they kept fb messenger integrated in the FB app. so what if it take a few extra seconds to load. just make your FB less clunky and faster to load. ill just used the mobile facebook on my browser if i need to message anybody

  13. When I get a message/need to send one I use the mobile web page to read and send messages.

  14. Forced everyone? The nice thing about separate apps is that the user can choose which ones to install or not install. I uninstalled the Facebook app the day it requested SMS permission. I still read it but on the mobile web site.

    1. That’s what I did too…but lately they’re blocking me to access the mobile version , I get a message to go install their app.

    2. Permissions don’t mean they are going to do something behind your back…

      1. Nevertheless I decline to permit Facebook to read my SMS. They shouldn’t need it. The point of Android informing me of the app’s required permission is to give me a chance to say “no thanks.”

        1. And that’s your ignorance: they aren’t “reading it.” The sense of self-importance out of tinfoils like this never cease to amaze me.

  15. What a load of bull! I mean how logical is it to separate the “communication” portion of a “social” app? Also, if you follow that logic, it would make sense to install separate apps for comments, pic uploads, sharing, etc, since the app has to change format for each of these actions as well. “Zuck” made such a big production of forcing his app developers to use the Android version in order to make it as smooth as the iOS version and THIS is what we get? Sorry, I only message on the mobile website like many others. After that lame explanation I may just uninstall the Facebook app altogether! Smh.

    1. I am tempted to just uninstall the app and use the mobile site anyway. You’d think these guys have never heard of convergence!

    2. He also made them go to countries with poor reception/expensive data plans/slow hardware to make them appreciate the need for speed and efficiency and after that the app gets so bad that it now takes so long to open that I get 2 or 3 ANR messages.

  16. This is a bullshit answer IMHO, I understand where he’s going with the app but I’m not interested, nor do I like the fact that they keep the messages tab in the Facebook app. Link to the web or remove the tab, I’m tired of seeing a Facebook app update every damn time I look at my phone, now I’ll have two facebook apps updating themselves relentlessly?

    1. Yeah, it is a useless battery drain.

  17. Their main app probably became too bloated to the point where it would be better for them to create a separate app…
    (Think Android restrictions such as dex method limit, 128 max parallel background threads, etc)

  18. I love the Messenger app. Chat was always better in it than through the FB application. I also love that it forced most of my friends to get it! It makes sure they read my mofoing message!

  19. The fact he ignores is that how many people use facebook solely for messaging? They use a separate app for messaging because that’s their goal just to send messages while people use facebook because it’s a social network. Messaging is there to augment the social aspect not a standalone feature. So this doesn’t make any sense.

    1. Exactly what I came to say. I used the massaging to have a private conversation on Facebook, not as my daily texting needs.

    2. If you really think about it, from a business point of view, you’ve answered your own question. It might go something like this: Why are people only using our messaging service a couple of times per month? People must think it is only there “to augment the social aspect”. Let’s make it a standalone feature so it’ll be used for all messaging purposes. Makes complete sense.

  20. I stopped using the app and just use the mobile version of the web.

  21. I just use Friendcaster, works better than the official Facebook app and you can message from it without having to install another app.

  22. There’s no difference in speed when the messages are in the main app. He makes it sound like it was a big task when it’s basically the same to message in Facebook or the separate app.
    Seems more like they took a while to formulate some persuasive nonsense to convince everyone why they should just use the messenger.

  23. If I’m using a “messaging” app, it’s going to be multi client. I use IM+ So I’m not running all these apps for each service. That’s just stupid. For the casual message I get in FB, they should have left the functionality on that tab. It’s SUPER ANNOYING every time I have a FB notification that happens to be a message and then they SPAM me. This isn’t about the “User Experience” it’s about Facebook trying to make MONEY. That’s their right, but let’s be honest.

  24. If this was true, then they would have created a separate function for their web page messaging service just the same. The reality is that they just wanted to make another app to profit from rather than simply make their base app better. It worked fine for several years as it was.

  25. How bout someone explaining why they freak out over a “separate app”??? Big whoopy do people!!!

  26. I just wish they would fix such a broken Facebook app….the thing is terrible. Every update sees it with a new problem, force closing, crashes, freezing – you name it, it’ll do it! They just can’t seem to deliver a polished app, so I’ll just go through the browser instead.

  27. And this is why I avoid the separate messaging app and check my once a month message though the web version of Facebook

  28. Sweet iPhone icons in the title picture

  29. Now can be explain why the app had the terribly obnoxious chat heads pop up things that force be to deal with every incoming message, instead of a simple notification?

    It’s bit installing a new app I hate, it’s that the app sucks.

  30. The technical reasoning doesn’t hold water. Apps on Android can specify multiple launch activities. It’s trivial to build an app that has two separate icons that you can launch, where one puts you in the newsfeed, and the other skips you right into chat.

  31. I use FB messenger more than any other messaging service, i like the seperate app alot! It’s much faster and more geared towards mobile messaging, compared to the old build-in function. BTW: I don’t like the chat heads either, doesn’t take long to disable ;)

  32. How long have you been working at Facebook?

  33. Only when Facebook fixes the battery drain issue will I reinstall FBM. As it is now, there’s something about Facebook Messenger, some bug or something, that drains the battery between 20 and 30 percent faster than the battery would naturally. That is a HUGE problem…

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