Why it matters to you
Facebook Messenger’s popularity is showing no signs of abating. Facebook reported in July that Messenger boasted a massive 1 billion users. Now, less than a year later, its up to 1.2 billion. That’s despite the Messenger haters who still exist after Facebook forced users to download the stand-alone Messenger app if they want to message people — rather than just using the Facebook app.
So what’s the cause of all the growth? Facebook attributes it to the launch of Facebook Messenger Lite, the lightweight version of Messenger that’s targeted at regions with slow connections and older phones. Facebook says the growth can also be attributed to rapid expansion of new features.
For example, Facebook has launched M suggestions, group payments, and Messenger Day, its Snapchat Stories clone, in the past few weeks alone. These new features might not be the reason people use Messenger — Messenger is still aimed at people messaging other people — but they certainly help in keeping the platform relevant and helpful.
Still, some have criticized the slew of new features, arguing that Messenger is becoming a little bloated. Despite the negative feedback, it’s likely that we’ll see more features added to Messenger as time goes by.
And if not new features, certainly new countries. In late April, Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus announced that the stripped-down version of the app had made its way to 132 more countries. “Making sure that everyone can have a great experience with Messenger irrespective of the age of their smartphone is very important to us,” Marcus wrote in — what else? — a Facebook post.
At this point, the few countries in which Messenger Lite is not available include Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Sudan, the U.K., the U.S., and North Korea.
Facebook began evolving Messenger a few years ago, when it announced that Messenger would become a platform rather than just an app. What that means is that developers can create bots for Messenger — such as CNN’s news bot, which delivers daily news and allows users to request news related to different topics — all through artificial intelligence. Facebook is expected to unveil even more features for Messenger at its F8 Developer Conference, which takes place next week.
Who knows, maybe Messenger’s new features will push the platform to 2 billion users. Or at the very least, Messenger Lite can help. As Marcus wrote, “If you have an older phone that doesn’t have a lot of memory, or has limited processing power, and you want the benefit of messaging quickly with any of the 1.2+ billion people using Messenger every month, give Lite a try!”
Article updated on 04-28-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news that Messenger Lite is available in 132 more countries.