?Social networking giant Facebook has taken the wraps off Facebook Messenger, a dedicated mobile messaging application which will compete with Blackberry Messenger and over the top offerings like WhatsApp, as well as SMS.
The offering was developed in-house by Beluga, which was acquired by Facebook back in March, and integrates with Facebook Messages and the phone address book, giving it something of an edge, although it should be noted that as a standalone app, users will need to download it even if they already have Facebook mobile.
Pamela Clark-Dickson, senior analyst for messaging at Informa Telecoms & Media, notes that Facebook Messenger will have the edge over both RIM?s Blackberry Messenger and Apple?s forthcoming iMessage in that it can provide a cross-platform messaging application, specifically for the iPhone and Android mobile operating systems, although not yet on Blackberry, and non-smartphone users can also reply to Facebook messages via text.
?Assuming that Facebook Messenger provides a compelling messaging experience, it has the potential to achieve a greater reach than BBM, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk or the as-yet-unlaunched iMessage,? said Clark-Dickson.
?Facebook Messenger?s integration with the phone address book may also be a key factor in inducing either churn among the existing users of other, similar applications, or in encouraging adoption by new users. However, Facebook Messenger is a separate application, and so it is possible that mobile Facebook users may not see enough additional value in Facebook Messenger that they would download and use it,? she adds.
Messaging on Android, Apple
The new app will allow instant messaging on both Android and Apple phones. The company launched the app for users in theUS. It allows Facebook account holders to send instant messages on their mobile phones – both Android and Apple — to contacts on their ‘friends’ list.
The app will compete against a similar service offered by BlackBerry – Blackberry messenger (BBM), which shot to limelight for its role in the London riots.
BBM is said to have over 45 million users, while Facebook has said that it has a user base of more than 750 million users worldwide on the social networking site.
Earlier this year, Google’s latest social networking offering Google+ had introduced Huddle, which is a messaging service and reports say that Apple would be releasing its iMessage later this year.
Facebook engineer Lucy Zhang wrote in a blog post that it isn’t always easy to know the best way to reach someone on their phone.
Zhang added, “Should you send an email or text? Which will they check first? Did they even get your last message? We think messaging should be easier than that. You should be able to write a message, click ‘Send’ and know that you will reach the person right away.”
It is unknown when the service would be made available for users outside the US.
According to Facebook, it has more than 250 million active mobile users, and these users are twice as active as non-mobile users of Facebook. In addition, the company has partnerships with 200 mobile operators in 60 countries.
With regards to Facebook?s mobile operator partners, these will likely also benefit, in that messages will continue to be delivered via texts, so mobile operators will still generate data and SMS traffic, and revenues.
Survey findings published this week by analyst firm CCS Insight highlight a dramatic change in how consumers use their mobile phones, noting that Facebook?s Messages, Chat and Photos are some of the most popular mobile services across Europe, with the social network now one of the top three providers for messaging and in a prime position to be a major destination for watching video clips too.
?Facebook is fast becoming the default destination for all things mobile,? said Paolo Pescatore, director of applications and content, CCS Insight.
It?s an interesting move for Facebook, setting up a completely separate app just for messaging. It shows Facebook?s emphasis on mobile and the company?s increasing focus there. Facebook still doesn?t have an iPad app, but it?s widely expected.
Facebook in the region
Facebook, the social networking service?and website launched in February 2004, is operated and privately owned by Facebook Inc.?As of July 2011, Facebook has more than 750?million active users.
Facebook is becoming increasingly popular and is one of the MENA region?s most visited sites.
According to Alexa data, Facebook is actually the most popular site in Lebanon and the fourth most popular in Egypt. Egypt also has the fifth largest number of Facebook users outside the UK, the US and Canada ? and this is despite the site not offering an Arabic version as yet.
Sources: Telecoms, Cbronline, forbes, beyondink