Only two companies have apps with over 1 billion Google Play downloads, and the other is Google. Today Facebook proved just how big a business replacing SMS can be, as its leader David Marcus announced Messenger has now been downloaded over 1 billion times on Android. It joins Facebook and WhatsApp, and Google’s Gmail, YouTube, Search, and Maps in this very exclusive club.
Messenger’s strategy of layering modern mobile sharing features over a speedy texting app has paid off, and it looks like Facebook’s just getting started. With VOIP, video calling, stickers, voice clips, peer-to-peer payments, location, and a whole platform of third-party content creation apps, Messenger wants to own every way you communicate. And it partially is for well over 600 million users.
Combined with WhatsApp’s streamlined SMS alternative, Facebook controls messaging in a way that deeply insulates it from disruption. Snapchat and Yik Yak might steal a few users from its social network feed, but Facebook’s already focusing on the next fundamental communication utility.
In fact, Facebook has been subtly baking Messenger munch deeper into its product.
When you graph search for people, like friends who like a certain band, Facebook shortcuts you to ping them on Messenger, not visit their profile. When it’s a friend’s birthday, in some cases Facebook now recommends that you message them Happy Birthday, rather than writing it on their wall.
Just last week, Facebook overhauled how Messenger handles map and location sharing to lay the groundwork for a slew of new GPS-enabled features. Before, finding where to meet up with people was the domain of Nearby Friends in the main Facebook app.
And Facebook’s secret weapon in the messaging wars is that chat isn’t where it makes its money. Rather than having to cram Messenger full of ads or convince you to buy Sticker packs, it just has to tie people closer to its big brother Facebook where lucrative mobile ads earn enough money to provide for the whole family.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Facebook had offend the pride of its whole userbase by telling them they were required to download whole other app for Messaging. It wasn’t sweet, but the medicine went down, and Facebook saw engagement rise once chat wasn’t buried in its blue behemoth. Freed from the extra weight, Messenger was thin and agile enough to build out its bells and whistles.
With former PayPal President David Marcus in command and expert product guy Stan Chudnovsky as his first mate, in just the last six months Messenger has:
- Revamped location
- Added free VOIP video calling
- Launched a standalone messaging website
- Opened a third-party app platform
- Announced customer support chat with businesses
- Began allowing friend-to-friend payments
Meanwhile, the other giant with deep enough pockets to fund a true attempt at owning messaging has spent the past few years distracted by moonshots. Google was late to launch its mobile messenger, which was dragged down by Google Plus. It squandered its Hangouts product’s early lead in video chat, and missed on the chance to acquire WhatsApp, which could have turned this into a two-horse race.
Instead, Facebook saw that messaging was the center of mobile, the app you use the most times per day. If it’s the reason you open your phone at first, it’s wedged a foot in the door to become the second and third thing you do too. And with China’s WeChat pioneering the chat-app-as-a-portal roadmap, Facebook can just port what works to the rest of the world.
After years of people asking what would be the Facebook killer, Facebook happily provided its own answer.