Feeds

Facebook takes aim at SMS with new Messenger app

Mobile-to-mobile chat, no Facebook account required

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Facebook has unveiled an update to its Messenger app for Android aimed at getting mobile users off SMS and onto the social network's own messaging service.

Beginning on Tuesday, users no longer need a full Facebook account to access Messenger. Instead, they can sign up for the service using nothing more than their names and their mobile numbers.

Under the new system, the service verifies each new account by sending an SMS message containing a code to the user's mobile number. Once the user has entered that code into the Messenger app, the new account is activated. From then on, the phone number and a password are all that are needed to logon.

By allowing customers without Facebook accounts to access Messenger, Facebook brings the service that much closer to its goal of bringing all forms of electronic chat – including, email, IM, and SMS – under a single, unified messaging umbrella.

Of course, Facebook Messenger isn't the first such service to challenge the venerable SMS for mobile-to-mobile messaging supremacy. A variety of cross-platform alternatives are available that ride on top of a user's wireless internet service, including Apple's iMessage, Google Voice, Skype, and offerings from startups such as WhatsApp.

But Facebook is banking on two things with this update. First, it reckons Messenger will be more useful to Facebook members if they can use it to reach contacts who have yet to join the social network. And second, it's hoping people who grow accustomed to using the service might be tempted to try out the other features Facebook has to offer, too.

For now, however, the new, phone-based signup system seems to be off to a rocky start. While your Reg hack was able to download the new app and successfully created a Messenger account using only a phone number, there didn't seem to be much more to do with the app from there.

Naturally, because the app had created a brand-new account, its Contacts list was completely empty. But there was no option to scan the phone's address book for contacts, and there didn't seem to be any way to add contacts manually, either. Typing things into the Search box yielded no results.

There could be several reasons for our lack of success, however. First, Facebook says that although the new version of the Facebook Messenger Android app is available in the Google Play store now, "Messenger accounts will become available over the next few weeks." It's possible that the account we created today was not yet fully provisioned.

It's also possible that phone-only Messenger accounts won't truly be ready in the US for a while yet. On Tuesday, Facebook told The New York Times that it planned to offer the new sign-up system in Australia, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Venezuela first, with other markets to follow. Facebook reps did not immediately respond to El Reg's request for clarification.

Either way, it appears that customers who have full Facebook accounts will still get the most out of Messenger, for the time being at least. If you do try out the new system, though – the Messenger app is a free download and it contains no ads – let us know if you have any success. ®

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
Whoah! How many Google Play apps want to read your texts?
Google's app permissions far too lax – security firm survey
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
OpenWRT gets native IPv6 slurping in major refresh
Also faster init and a new packages system
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.