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Zuckerberg pitches private sharing, says Messenger has 200M users

The Facebook chief discusses the audience of the company's in-house mobile messaging app for the first time and simultaneously signals a growing interest in less public forms of expression.

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Facebook's wall. Facebook

Facebook Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday in a first-time reveal.

Zuckerberg shared the news with investors during the company's first-quarter earnings call, where he joined COO Sheryl Sandberg and departing CFO David Ebersman to talk up a remarkable first quarter. The first three months of the year were punctuated by mobile sales which grew to 59 percent of advertising revenue, or around $1.34 billion.

Messenger is a cross-platform messaging app for privately communicating with Facebook contacts. Once a baked-in feature of Facebook's mobile application, Messenger is being pushed to smartphone owners as its own standalone application. The move is part of Facebook's broader strategy to separate its parts from the whole.

Messenger's monthly audience is now on par with Instagram's, which also totals 200 million people. Meanwhile, WhatsApp, the social network's soon-to-be-acquired messaging powerhouse, has a monthly audience of 500 million people, which likely explains why Zuckerberg was amenable to spending $19 billion to make WhatsApp a Facebook property.

Facebook has never before discussed the size of Messenger's audience, but the company is likely taking a more candid attitude as it hopes to prove the value of its newly adopted single-purpose app strategy, which includes the iOS news app Paper.

"At the intersection of each type of content and each audience, we think there's a really compelling experience to be built," Zuckerberg explained to analysts on the call. "Facebook historically has focused on friends and public content. Now with Messenger and WhatsApp, we're taking a couple of different approaches to more private content as well."

The apps, he said, are growing quickly and independently because they address different use cases around private sharing. Zuckerberg said that we should expect to see more from Facebook in the private content department.