LOS ANGELES — If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve seen the latest grumbling about Facebook: Many in the 1.3 billion Facebook community are upset they can no longer receive their Facebook messages on a mobile phone without first downloading the separate Facebook Messenger app.
I’ve seen people tell friends not to message them any more because they didn’t want that second app. Still, that hasn’t stopped millions of folks from downloading it. It’s the No. 1 app download on the iTunes and Android charts, though so many disgruntled users have vented it’s brought the app down to earth with an average 1-star rating.
Calm down everybody. First of all, you can still get your messages on your computer. And second, there is a method to the madness: Facebook has actually improved the message experience with the additional app. I agree that it’s not cool to have to open up another app to do what we always did in Facebook, but messaging this way is truly more robust and, come on — opening the app takes less than a second.
Facebook says by making Messenger a separate app, it can improve the messaging experience by having more room to work within an app dedicated to nothing but communication, instead of having to share space with a growing app that’s mostly about a News Feed, sharing photos and online comments.
I believe they’re onto something, and will tell you why, in a second. But first, let’s also clear up some common, and untrue, urban myths that have blown up over the last two weeks.
Myth: The permissions to use the app are more invasive than ever before.
Reality: The app can grab your contacts, location data and calendar, which sounds pretty horrible, until you realize — they’re the same ones asked by any messaging app, be it Viber, TextPlus or Line.
The Facebook Messenger app does not grab hold of your phone’s microphone to secretly record you. All messaging apps access the mike in case you want to make use of a cool feature — free phone calls from within the app.
And speaking of cool features, here are six ways to get more out of messaging in Messenger:
1. FIND YOUR FRIENDS EASIER. Look for the blue badge in the Messenger People category. It will show you who is available to chat now. That’s a new addition. The green badge in the active tab will show whether your friend is sitting in front of their computer or available on mobile.
2. WIDER CONTACTS. You can now get in touch with someone who isn’t your Facebook friend. Just add in the phone number and you can start an instant chat.
3. BETTER GROUP CHAT. The feature has been improved, made faster, more reliable and easier to navigate. There are additional tools to instantly add photos and videos, and you can chat with up to 50 people at one time.
4. MORE PRIVACY. Don’t want others reading the subject matter of your chat when it shows up in a push notification? As in, the first sentence showing up on the lock screen of your iPad? Go into settings on the app and turn it off. You couldn’t do that in the regular Facebook app.
5. STICKERS. There are tons of new cute stickers that are available to insert into your chat. They’re easier to find and more are available to add to your arsenal.
6. FREE PHONE CALLS. You can phone any of your Facebook friends and save on your cell minutes charges. You could do this before, but Facebook says the experience is more reliable, and it’s easier to transition from typing to a call. (Note: Regarding the wider contacts mentioned above, you can only speak by voice with someone with whom you are full-fledged “friends.”)
It’s a given that with all new releases, many in the Facebook community scream loud and clear — they don’t like change. But they eventually do get used to it.