Facebook is rolling out an update to its Messenger app for Android, now requiring only a name and phone number to activate; no Facebook account is necessary.
This move better aligns Facebook Messenger with competing services like WhatsApp and Viber, all of which provide a similar messaging service over the web, and, in many cases, replace SMS for text-based mobile communication. These services have gained popularity recently, because they add functionality to the messaging experience, like file sharing, and because they have the appearance of being free.
Not requiring a Facebook account to use the service may seem to counter the company's core business model, but it is hoping that this change to Messenger will attract new users to the platform, especially in emerging markets where email accounts can be less prevalent than mobile-phone usage. In fact, in countries like India and Indonesia, Facebook is working with local carriers to create cheaper plans for customers who only want to use Messenger for their communication.
Speaking at the Le Web conference in Paris, Facebook's head of product, Peter Deng, said that the company may open up other products for users to try without a log-in in the future, like photo sharing. This in turn could bring new users to Facebook.
"It could lead to other parts of the Facebook product — post a status message or share an album," Deng said.
The log-in-less version of Facebook Messenger is available first in Australia, and can be used from today. It is also rolling out in South Africa, India, Argentina and Venezuela, with a broader push into more markets due soon. It is also planned for other operating platforms, too, including iOS.