Facebook today began allowing a limited test group of users to download a new Facebook Messenger for Windows 7 desktop client. It provides access to Chat, the Ticker feed, and notifications. Facebook is looking to gauge interest in desktop access to these real-time features that could keep users engaged with the service all day without having to keep a browser window open. The client could become popular, considering that the Facebook-integrated Windows Live Messenger desktop client that lets you Chat with friends as well as third-party instant messaging contacts is the top app on the Facebook Platform with 18.2 million daily active users.
I’ve confirmed the client’s limited beta launch with Facebook, which pointed me to the new Help Center article with details and screenshots. The fraction of the total user base randomly selected to join the tester group are being notified via home page prompts. There is no public download link, and the client is only compatible with Windows 7, though it was developed entirely by Facebook and does not constitute a new partnership with Microsoft.
Facebook is pushing to get more users onto its Chat service. This summer, it released its standalone Messenger app for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry as new distribution points for Chat. Through Messenger, Facebook is challenging instant messaging, SMS and to some extent, email. However, none of the other Messenger clients include the Ticker, which displays links back to Facebook.com.
By combining Chat and Ticker, Facebook can hook users on its communication system that produces huge volumes of sustained attention, and then get them frequently returning to the site by clicking through Ticker and notification links. I’m awaiting a response from Facebook as to whether Sponsored Stories will also appear in the client, as these ads were integrated into the Facebook.com Ticker today. If they do, Ticker-integrated Messenger clients could become a revenue stream as well as an engagement draw.
By paring Facebook down to just its real-time elements, users may leave Messenger for Windows on throughout the day. This would expose them to desktop notifications about Facebook activity that could increase engagement with the site better than leaving a browser window open. If the Windows 7 version gains traction, clients for Mac and other operating systems could be on the way.