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Facebook adds another app to its arsenal with Messenger

by Kathryn Swartz

With so many social networks fighting for your attention, it seems that Mark Zuckerburg and his Facebook team have decided that an increased presence is the way to go. That can be the only explanation for the company's launch of the unnecessary iPhone and iPod touch app Facebook Messenger earlier this week. True, many apps could be dubbed unnecessary, but I found Facebook Messenger’s existence to be plain silly, considering most of its features are already available in the existing Facebook app.

Facebook Messenger gives you access to your Facebook inbox messages, which, thanks to a fairly recent change in Facebook’s design, also includes your chat messages. Via Facebook Messenger you can send and receive messages to your FB friends, or, if you provide your phone number, your address book contacts. After a spate of posts that FB might or might not be stealing your address book contacts, I opted to skip the prompt to confirm my phone number.

When composing messages in Facebook Messenger, you can opt to add friends to the convo to make it a group chat at any time. Regular Facebook only allows you to add multiple contacts at the start of a thread. Users can also add photos to the thread or share their current location. Might want to turn that feature off if you're participating in illicit activities.

Sure these few additions are nice — and rumor has it video chat is not far behind — but Facebook Messenger doesn’t support copying from messages. A more egregious omission is the lack of ability to see who is online, something that’s already present in the full Facebook app. Perhaps if all your FB friends used this app the immediacy of push notifications would negate the need for them to be currently online, but I know in my circle that’s not feasible. Speaking of push, I do appreciate that you can shut off alerts for individual messages or for the entire app for specific periods of time: one hour, until 8 a.m. or permanently. Facebook Messenger also neglects to include the inbox search option available in the standard app.

Facebook Messenger is faster than Facebook, which is a bonus if you use the network as all methods of communication, but I’m still unclear why this app needs to exist on its own. For my springboard space, I’d rather have seen Facebook Messenger’s push integrated into the regular Facebook app and Facebook’s time spent on — dare I say it? — an iPad version.

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