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Facebook users must switch to the social network's dedicated Messenger mobile app if they want to keep chatting away to their Facebook friends on their phones.

A spokesperson confirmed to The Reg that Facebook had started informing people that online chat is moving out of its main social networking app on iOS and Android, and over to a separate Messenger app.

The website has invested in making its Messenger app slicker and faster to compete with rival mobile instant-messenger services, such as WeChat, Kik and other services popular with the kids. The move is also in line with Facebook's strategy for a suite of mobile apps, hinted at by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an earnings call late last year.

In the third quarter chat with analysts, Zuck said the firm already had a few separate apps like Instagram and Messenger and it expected to develop more of these sorts of services. Just a few months later, Facebook announced its new Paper app, a content management service and user interface for users' News Feeds.

Of course, Facebook also spent $19bn on WhatsApp, casting its own Messenger app's future into uncertainty.

There's a certain amount of sense in running both messaging services, however, since they are somewhat different: Facebook messaging works both online and on mobiles, for example. The WhatsApp deal hasn't yet closed but already users are fearing Facebook's influence. The social network has said it doesn't intend to fully integrate WhatsApp, in order to appease the IM service's millions of users, so if it wants a Facebook-branded messaging app without driving users away, it needs to keep developing its own.

The changes, which were first reported by TechCrunch, will come into force in a few countries in Europe first, eventually spreading to all smartphone Facebookers. ®

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