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Facebook rolls out standalone mobile-chat app

Facebook breaks out chat from its mobile application into a new app that helps users talk to one another on the go.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

Facebook today doubled down on its mobile efforts with a new mobile application that breaks out its messaging service into a single app.

Dubbed "Messenger," Facebook is making the app available for both Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Users can log in with their Facebook credentials to get access to existing chats and message threads from Facebook for interacting with them on the go. Included is group messaging, along with a component that lets users share photos and their location.

"The Messenger app is an extension of Facebook messages, so all your conversations are in one place, including your texts, chats, e-mails, and messages. Whether you're on your phone or on the Web, you can see the full history of all your messages," Lucy Zhang, Beluga co-founder and Facebook engineer, said in a post on Facebook's blog.

For all intents and purposes, the app is the same as Beluga, a group-messaging app Facebook acquired in March. In fact, the team that made Facebook Messenger is the same one that made that application, and the feature set reflects that. Nonetheless, this app is not replacing Beluga, according to Facebook.

"Nothing is going to change for Beluga right now," a Facebook representative told CNET. "The apps will remain separate. We're considering ways to possibly migrate Beluga messages over to Facebook Messenger but have no specifics to announce at the moment."

The move to break out messaging is of special note, given the murmurs of Facebook doing something similar for photo sharing. A report in June from TechCrunch pulled together screenshots of such an app in the works that would combine sharing elements akin to apps like Instagram, Color, Picplz, and others, while tapping into Facebook's photo servers. That differs substantially from Facebook's existing mobile strategy, which has been to pull the various site features together into one experience, similar to what's available for desktop users.

Notably missing from this iteration, and Facebook's other apps, is video chat--a feature it launched as part of a partnership with Skype last month. In a question-and-answer session following the unveiling of that feature at Facebook's headquarters, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the two companies would begin work to bring that feature to mobile phones immediately.

Update at 2:25 p.m. PT: You can grab the app from iTunes here. Android users, can get it here. The company is also offering to send download links directly to your device from its Messenger home page.