Group chat will get a bit less chaotic with the global rollout of two Facebook Messenger features it was previously testing in Vietnam.
Users can now @mention friends in a group chat to send them a special notification to reply to your message so they don’t miss it in a noisy thread. You just type @, then the person’s name or in-thread nickname, and the name will be highlighted and that person will get an alert.
Meanwhile, Facebook is bringing its News Feed Reactions to Messenger so you can reply by attaching a love, smile, wow, sad, angry, thumbs-up or thumbs-down emoji to a specific message. This way you’ll be able to simply express agreement, disagreement or an emotion about a particular message, even if a bunch of other messages have come in since.
Tap and hold on a message to pull up the Reactions menu and select one. Everyone will see a counter of different reactions on the message, and you can tap that counter to see exactly who reacted how. Reactions work in one-on-one chats, too.
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The “Thumbs-down” Reaction could be interpreted as Facebook’s first real “Dislike button.” However, Facebook calls it a “No” Reaction and told me that since people often use Messenger for coordinating logistics, it wanted to add easy ways to vote for or against a proposed plan.
TechCrunch first spotted and reported on a test of Messenger Reactions early this month, and also saw that users in Vietnam were trying out mentions. Reactions works very similar to iOS 10’s iMessage’s Tapback reactions launched in September, and Slack’s more expansive and long-standing emoji reaction selector.
Doubling down on group chat is smart for Messenger at a time when it’s been criticized for injecting social media content broadcasting into the communication app via Snapchat Stories clone Messenger Day. Messenger actually started as a group chat app called Beluga before Facebook acquired it. With mentions and Reactions, Facebook could use its better group chat experience than SMS to win users from the status quo.