Facebook's new mobile messenger takes on RIM's BBM

Companies like RIM and Apple offer free messaging systems for mobile phones. Now Facebook is stepping in as well with a brand new app for iOS and Android called Messenger.

Washington: On Tuesday, the world's largest social network unveiled Facebook Messenger, a free standalone messaging application that will allow users to send and receive Facebook messages from their mobile device.

Facebook launched a mobile messaging application for Apple's iPhone and Android devices.

Dubbed Messenger, the new app lets Facebook users quickly shoot messages to their friends' cell phones.

Facebooks new mobile messenger takes on RIMs BBM

Screen grab of the Facebook messenger

Yes, you could already do this using the existing Facebook mobile app, but that required navigating through various screens and layers every time you want to read and compose a message. The Messenger app is a one-trick pony that's strictly for communicating, making the process much quicker. And Messenger lets you communicate with friends that aren't on Facebook, with the app sending SMS text messages directly to their phone numbers.

Facebook says the app is especially good for group messaging - spontaneous conversations among multiple friends making plans to see a movie or gathering at a bar, for instance. In fact, Messenger appears to be the new incarnation of Beluga, a group messaging software company that Facebook acquired earlier this year.

"When you're on the go, coordinating a bunch of people can be tricky, especially if plans change at the last minute," Lucy Zhang said. "With Messenger, you can quickly start a group conversation and message everyone at once."

The launch of Messenger marks the first time that Facebook has released a single-function app to complement its general-purpose mobile app, and it reflects the company's increasing focus on mobile phones. According to Facebook, 250 million of its 750 million users access the service on a mobile device, and Facebook mobile users are twice as active as non-mobile users.

There may be more to come: TechCrunch has reported that Facebook is developing a specialized photo-sharing app for mobile devices.Facebook engineer Lucy Zhang said Facebook Messenger can be used to exchange messages with Facebook friends but also with other people in a user's telephone contact list.

Facebook said Messenger also has location- and photo-sharing features. "If you choose to add your location, the people you're messaging with can easily find each other on the map," Zhang said. "You can also attach photos, so everyone else can see and comment on what you're looking at."

Messenger integrates text messages, instant messages and emails. Zhang is a co-founder of Beluga, a startup founded by former Google employees that allows users to send group messages to family or friends. Facebook acquired Beluga in March.

Facebook rival Google has its own group messaging feature, dubbed "huddle," in its mobile version of the Google+ social networking service. And by creating a specialized inter-phone messaging network, Facebook is, in a sense, developing its own version of Research In Motion's popular BlackBerry Messenger service.


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