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Facebook Messenger now used by more than 500M people

Milestone comes just months after a negative backlash against separating the social network's IM features onto a standalone app.

Facebook Messenger now has more than 500 million montly users. Jason Cipriani/CNET

Despite initially raising the ire of many Facebook Messenger users, the new standalone messaging app has managed to win acceptance by nearly half of the social network's users.

Facebook said Monday that each month more than 500 million people are using the app, which shifted the social network's instant-messaging features off the main mobile app and onto a separate program in July. Users who wanted to continue using the social network's instant message platform were required to download the new app, causing some outcry among people who were previously accustomed to sending messages through the standard Facebook app.

Unhappy users expressed their frustration in app reviews aggregated by App Annie, an analytics-tracking site that gathers the collective wisdom of app users, giving the app nearly 59,000 one-star ratings in its first month. That easily dwarfed the nearly 2,700 five-star ratings the app has received from users. Out of the more than 64,000 reviews of Facebook's Messenger in its first month, the app was only been able to garner a 1.2-star average rating.

Facebook, which has a little more than 1 billion users worldwide, announced at the end of July that it was beginning the final phaseout of mobile messaging within its main app. The company rolled out the Messenger-only app in Europe in April, but has since rolled it out globally.

While Facebook's milestone announcement suggests that the storm has passed and that unhappy users have embraced the new app, the move is still commanding some users' attention. During a question-and-answer session Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted last week, one questioner in Ethiopia asked why Facebook began requiring mobile users to download a separate app to send private messages.

"We realize asking everyone in the community to install a new app is a big ask," he admitted, saying the move was driven by the popularity of apps created for specific purposes. "These apps are fast and just focused on messaging."

However, the app's explosion in popularity comes amid a sector crowded with many competitors, such Apple's iMessage, Samsung's ChatOn and Facebook's own WhatsApp, which announced in August that it now counted 600 million active users on its network each month.