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Digital Media

Facebook Messenger chats up zippier camera, Snapchat-like masks

The messaging app's update adds new creative options, including ones that mimic a rival.

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Messenger is getting a makeover and you can, too, thanks to masks, stickers and frames.

Facebook

Facebook knows people get snap-happy over the holidays but would prefer they don't get Snapchat-happy.

Over the next few days, Facebook's Messenger app will introduce a new quicker-to-launch, quicker-to-shoot camera, the company said Thursday. A bunch of Snapchat-esque masks and effects are coming too.

Open the app or any conversation, and the camera button will now immediately show up in the center of the screen. You can begin snapping pictures, which takes one tap, or shooting video, which requires a long press, straight away.

Facebook is introducing the changes to reflect that people are communicating more often with images than they used to. "In some ways the camera is now replacing the keyboard," Facebook said, noting that over 2.5 billion emojis, photos, stickers and videos are already sent every day with the service.

Making the camera more central to the Messenger experience could also help Facebook stay competitive with rival messaging apps, in particular Snapchat, which has images rather than text at its very core.

Another nod toward Snapchat is the introduction of masks and other 3D effects that allow you to jazz up your face and photos with art. You can now transform yourself into a reindeer when taking a selfie, for example, or play with falling snow on the screen. The new mask features were likely made possible by technology Facebook acquired when it bought startup MSQRD in March.

In the update, Facebook is adding thousands of more stickers, frames, masks and effects. You can send your creations to multiple friends at the same time.

Facebook also hopes you'll take advantage of its palette tool to animate messages consisting solely of text by adding color and stickers that add "delight."