September 2014 | Facebook has finally forced most users in the USA to download the FB Messenger App (as promised). Assuming you want to retain use of FB’s instant messaging function on an ios device, you need to install this 2nd app.
I Was Wondering Why Facebook Made This Change
It seems to me, and to most everyone I’ve talked to that this was not a desired change…in fact just the opposite. Most everyone I’ve talked to see’s it as an annoying development and a major inconvenience. Needing 2 apps to serve the same function that 1 originally accomplished, and switching back and forth between them were the complaints most often mentioned to me. Quite frankly, I agree. Which is why I decided to figure out what good could possibly come from this change.
Notes on My Research
My overall take on this is that the whole communications and VoIP industry has reached a new tier in maturity. Everyone has some experience with im (instant messaging) technology now, and most people have used free WiFi or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calling as well. The feature set as a whole is pretty well defined for both and generally includes these functions:
Sending individual or group text messages via WiFi rather than cellular networks.
Sending or sharing enhanced media such as photos, videos, links via the texting function.
Placing individual or group voice calls via WiFi using VoIP technology
Video calling via WiFi, either one-to-one or group based also using VoIP
As the technology has matured, so too have the providers, and a few have risen to top. I’ll call them ‘The Big 3’, and they include:
The Big 3
Then, in my personal opinion there’s a 2nd tier of providers (which I won’t bother thinking of a name for because I’m probably forgetting somebody). But they include:
The Minor 4
Yes, there are a few others that I’m not including here because I just don’t think enough people have heard of them or use them. But for the sake of completeness there’s also: ooVoo, Vonage Mobile, Blackberry Messaging, and Yahoo Messenger, as well as a few that I never even heard of.
I’ve never really heard of Whatsapp or Viper, but they seem to be prevalent…so much so that Facebook actually acquired Whatsapp in 2013.
More About the Big 3
Apparently, the big 3 in the top tier are all vying for that #1 spot.
So here’s a little more detail about each.
Google | Google’s growing market share has meant they’ve been getting rid of an odd assortment of older communications products, like Google Voice and Google Talk. Instead they’re focusing all their resources on one good bit of technology that can function well in today’s rapidly changing environment of mobile devices. The technology giant has dabbled in so many industries through the years that they’ve actually had 2 different products offering various aspects of messaging and telecommunications…Google Talk and Google Voice. Last spring they pulled the plug on Google Voice’s connectivity to a bunch of different free calling and texting providers for ios and Android, which really annoyed a lot of people myself included. I had spent a great deal of time setting up an elaborate system that allowed me to use my tablets for cell phone calls and texting, without actually needing to have my cell phone anywhere around.
Skype | Most think of Skype as the originator of VoIP technology. Interestingly, it was started by 2 guys from Europe…one was from Denmark and the other from Sweden. It had grown so huge by 2011 that Microsoft purchased them. But their headquarters are still in Tallinn Estonia, which is pretty cool because I’ve been there! We stopped there during a family cruise in the Baltic Sea a long time ago, but I remember at the time being told by my son that this city was thought of as the internet capital of the world!
Skype still offers free VoIP calls computer to computer, but they’ve significantly expanded their free offerings. You can use free Skype through their app on mobile devices now, mobile to mobile. You can also verify your cell phone number with them which allows you to call others through Skype with your cell phone, yet have your mobile Caller ID show up on their phone. They have actual Skype phone numbers now, which work very much like the Google Voice numbers did. When I checked this feature out last week, I believed that they charged for this, but when I verified my cell number with Skype a few days later, they texted me that I was now eligible for a free number…so I’m not entirely sure about this aspect.
Facebook | Which brings us back around to Facebook. I think that Facebook is attempting to capitalize on their high ranking within the top tier. It seems to me like their market dominance happened almost by accident. But they do have a huge captive audience/customer base now, which they could utilize in some way to make a profit. Although how exactly they’d do that is unclear to me, just as it’s unclear to me how they currently make a profit. Yes, I know they have ads, and they’ve got to be selling data mined from Graph Search but I don’t actually know anything about the real profits these might be generating.
It’s clear to me that Facebook has a huge audience or customer base, but I don’t think that their present mobile software offerings (meaning their apps for ios, Android, Windows and Blackberry) are built within a framework that would allow them to fully capitalize on that. And by capitalize, I actually mean being able to offer competing features which would help them to retain or even grow their customer base.
The New Facebook Messenger App for ios<!–
The new Facebook messenger app for ios offers Facebook users a lot of really great new features. Features like making voice calls and video calls from right within the app!
Facebook has been experimenting with these types of features for quite a while now. I was researching the easiest free ways for my Dad and some of his ex-military buddies to group video chat about 6 to 9 months ago, and Facebook had video calling enabled right within their ios app at that moment in time. They also offered group video chatting, but not on ios. Shortly after I discovered it the feature was removed!
I suspect that because the framework of their apps was holding them back, they weighed the pros and cons of modifying them to offer these enhanced features reliably. But it must have not been either economically or logistically feasible for them to do so. However, they did have a less popular framework that did.
It was called Facebook Messenger. They probably had invested a lot of time and money into developing that too. Facebook Messenger actually had achieved a high degree of popularity and usage in early the early 2000’s…possibly even in the late 1990’s too. It was the main way that early adopters of Facebook (teens and educators) used to chat and message each other. But as the baby boomers began to embrace Facebook, they had less time to chat yet more money to buy good mobile devices. So they dusted off the old Facebook Messenger app, and probably entirely redesigned it. Then they began their advertising campaign which provided us all with ample warnings and opportunity to embrace the change set before us. This is all guesswork on my part. But I really believe that I’ve guessed correctly!
Am I happy about the change? No, not really. But I think I’ll be able to adjust, and so far I haven’t found the new (to me) app too difficult or frustrating to use. I’m also excited about the potential prospects that the enhanced features offer. So, while the jury may still be out for me personally, I don’t really think that my opinion makes much difference. I am really curious however, how my friends and family are adjusting and feeling about this change. So please feel free to leave me any comments in the comment area below. I’ve made it super easy to remain anonymous, by not asking for your email address and not publishing the comments (assuming I’ve setup the comment box correctly!). I just really want to know!
Once I’ve had the time to actually test out some of the new features, I’ll write a followup to this with Step-by-Step instructions on how to use some of the new features for the ios 8 Facebook Messenger app.
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