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Facebook Messenger app goes toe-to-toe with BBM

Facebook has a new messaging app. Available for Android and iPhone, the app lets you send group messages, just like in BlackBerry Messenger.

Facebook now has its own instant messaging app, called Facebook Messenger. The app, which is available for Android and iOS devices, lets you send messages instantly to anyone in your Facebook friends list.

The app will also let you send messages to people on your mobile contacts list, and send out group messages too. We suspect that could come in handy if you're trying to organise a, er, group meet-up. If you receive a message, your phone will notify you, so you won't have to keep refreshing the app to see what your buddies are saying.

The app goes toe-to-toe with services such as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which is a near-identical messaging tool for BlackBerry users, and Google+ Huddle.

Whether the idea takes off will depend on how good the actual app is. We've been sorely unimpressed with the official Facebook iPhone app, which has more bugs than an entomology convention. It looks like Facebook has big plans for Facebook Messenger in the future, though -- 9to5Mac has spotted hidden code that suggests the House of Zuck will be adding video conferencing.

The app will trouble mobile network operators, who make money from charging people to send text messages. Facebook Messenger will use a (probably small) amount of mobile data if you're using it over 3G rather than Wi-Fi, but other than that it's completely free, and allows people to stay in touch without the use of pricey texts.

The announcement of Facebook Messenger comes at a rather inopportune time. Thanks to the part BlackBerry Messenger played in this week's UK riots, fast and free group messaging apps like this one are feeling the weight of public scrutiny.

Facebook Messenger is available in the US right now, but hasn't made it to UK app stores. If you're impatient, go to this page and hit refresh until something happens.

Do you love Facebook? Would you use this app? Let us know in the comments section below, or on our very own Facebook page