Well now. Rumours that Facebook was poised to buy social messaging service WhatsApp may have been false, but the social network looks set to take the little green messaging app head on.
Starting today, a select group of Android users will be able to sign into Facebook Messenger using only their name and phone number. That saves the hassle of having to sign into your Facebook account just to message people, and will also allow people to message Facebook users, even if they don’t have an account themselves. Even if you do, your contacts won’t come exclusively from your Facebook friends list.
The initial roll out has a distinctly emerging markets flavour and will focus on Australia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Venezuela. Engadget reports however that the update is expected to come to other countries soon.
Facebook says the update means you’ll be able to “reach your contacts faster, start group conversations, share photos and more.” It also loosens the grip between the Messenger and the Android app.
Any iPhone users feeling desperate FOMO right now can sit right back down. The update is also set to roll out to iOS fairly soon, although there’s no definite timetable at this stage.
There is one area where Facebook Messenger has a distinct advantage over Whatsapp. It is usable on both the web and mobile, meaning you can carry on a conversation from device to device.
Things is, it still has to win a lot of mindshare if it’s to convince people that it can join WhatsApp in the pantheon of SMS killers.