Sure, Facebook Messenger crosses 1.2 billion monthly active users, but what next?
Facebook Messenger now has twice the userbase as Instagram, and almost as much as WhatsApp.
Remember when you said, ‘if Facebook thinks I’m downloading a separate app just to send messages, they’re crazy!’? Well, turns out, they were not so crazy to think that, after all. According to the latest statistics announced by Facebook, the Messenger now has 1.2 billion monthly active users, which is twice the size of Instagram’s user base, and quite close to that of WhatsApp’s. Earlier this year in February, WhatsApp reached 1.2 billion monthly active users.
Ever since the platform was launched as a standalone service in 2014, Messenger‘s user growth has skyrocketed. Facebook has since bolstered Messenger with games, a chatbot platform, voice calling, video calling, a revamped camera with masks, frames, stickers and effects, and options to make transactions. In its fourth quarter report in February, Facebook said that 400 million people use voice and video calling on Messenger every month, and one billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month.
Now, this raises two questions in my mind – how, and now what? Talking about the how. Though it certainly is a big news, it does seem very mysterious. Anyone you know or ask around would always connect with you on WhatsApp. With the ones you do connect on the Messenger first, you tend to graduate to WhatsApp eventually, because the latter has managed to create a sense of comfort no other messaging platform can compete with. Then how is Messenger even at par with WhatsApp’s user base?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently mentioned that in general, WhatsApp serves as a replacement for SMS services, whereas Messenger aims to be a more “expressive and rich environment” with a broad range of content. Across both apps, more than 60 billion messages are sent every day, said Zuckerberg, noting that he is “confident” this metric will keep growing. Facebook’s flagship app has nearly two billion monthly users, and Instagram has 600 million monthly users.
Well, the answer lies in Facebook’s move in 2014, when it decided to spin out the messaging platform into a standalone service when it didn’t see enough attention being given to the Messenger app. Facebook made it essential for users to download the app in order to be able to access their chats.
But, to be fair, this userbase cannot be achieved solely by force. Facebook Messenger did see some very interesting new features and changes eventually. Messenger in the US started to allow person-to-person payments in 2015, which just yesterday was also expanded to group payments. Messenger lets its users make video and voice chats. Facebook rolled out a selective encryption tool in the messaging platform last year. And keeping up with the visual trend, Messenger first introduced a built-in camera within the platform last year, which was revamped last month, to give it a more Snapchat-ish look and feel.
Now that answers the ‘how’ bit of it. But the question remains – Messenger has reached a point where one in every five tech-savvy people may be using the application, where is it headed now? What now? It has successfully turned into a messaging platform, it has included the mania of visual communication, what’s ahead of it now?
If we look at the direction as to where the Messenger is heading, it’s an instant reminder of what Google Hangouts was trying to achieve some years ago. The idea is to become a one-stop shop for everything!
While WhatsApp essentially remains to be a person-to-person communication platform, Facebook is aiming at a more expansive audience with person-to-person and business-to-person communicative opportunities. Not only does the Messenger allow payments, through chatbots, Messenger has made it possible for businesses to connect with their audience on a more casual platform. Messenger lets you book cabs, order food, buy clothes, among other things.
Further with Samsung’s Bixby and Google’s Assistant making the AI-based personal assistants seem essential, Facebook is not lagging behind either. Last weeks, Facebook Messenger launched its digital assistant named “M” for its users in the US. Similar to the Google Assistant, M pops up and suggests “helpful actions” in a chat window. The move is seen as the first step towards a broader launch of the digital assistant to compete against services from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung.
It’s quite interesting to see where Facebook is now headed with the Messenger and its 1.2 billion users. But our only concern is that the Messenger’s fate shouldn’t turn out to be like Google Hangouts, that did too much and in too little time, and ended up being taken over by the then-newbies.