It was rumoured that Facebook was looking at purchasing WhatsApp – that turned out to be a rumour. However today Facebook announced its own Messaging App that is free and doesn’t even require a Facebook login – just a name and phone number.
If you don’t have a Facebook username, the app simply looks at your local contacts so you can communicate with them instead of sending SMS. According to the very brief info posted on Facebook:
Just install the app and tap Get Started to reach your contacts faster, start group conversations, share photos and more.
So why does Facebook, a social network, allow people to use this messaging app without signing up to Facebook ?
A clue might be in the countries that this app is available in namely South Africa, India, Australia, Argentina, and Venezuela. In these countries the amount of Facebook users is not high however the cost of SMS is. So we can assume that Facebook is looking to offer an alternative to SMS and at the same time a attract new signups.
If someone does not have a Facebook account uses the messaging App, they are just one step away from becoming a Facebook user. Now if Facebook will just makes this app available on feature phones, they would have a real shot at world-domination as they will be network agnostic, phone agnostic and operating system agnostic.
It does show that Facebook is taking mobile seriously. SMS is 20 years old, and there are people who communicate only via SMS and not email. With this messaging app, Facebook is taking a real stab at killing off SMS by offering people the ability to communicate in a new rich format.
At the time of writing this, I could not the find the non-Facebook-required messaging app in the Google Play store and friends in India could not find it on their play store either.