Facebook kills app messaging in Europe to push standalone Messenger

Facebook has been warned it risks alienating users as it seeks to grow the reach of its Facebook Messenger app as a platform for communications, content and commerce. The company has decided to remove its mobile app’s messaging capabilities in some European markets so that users have to download Facebook Messenger instead.

WhatsApp reportedly has a higher penetration than Facebook Messenger on mobile in Europe, so it is possible that this is a reactionary move from Facebook and it is significant that Facebook has taken this step in Europe first, and not the US, where Facebook Messenger reportedly has higher penetration than WhatsApp.

However, having acquired WhatsApp in February for $19bn in cash and shares, it’s unlikely that Facebook will want to risk devaluing its investment in its new subsidiary, which the US Federal Trade Commission approved the acquisition of this week.

Pamela Clark-Dickson, senior analyst for messaging at Informa Telecoms & Media, said Facebook’s decision to remove the messaging capability from its smartphone apps in certain European markets, and to encourage Facebook users in these markets to download and use the standalone Facebook Messenger app, seems explicitly designed to increase the penetration of Facebook Messenger in these European countries. “But it is also possible that, with this move, Facebook may antagonize a proportion of its mobile users who may not wish to download two apps to access their Facebook services. What Facebook is doing, in a sense, is ‘forcing’ its mobile users to change their behaviour, in which case it will need to provide users with a good incentive to do so.”
It is possible that the company wishes to provide its mobile users with a superior mobile messaging experience, and that it believes this superior experience can best be achieved by providing a standalone, dedicated messaging app.
Regardless, it is likely that the penetration of Facebook Messenger will increase, since most Facebook users will want to continue interacting with the Facebook messaging service on their mobile devices.
Given that Facebook now owns WhatApp and Instagram, as well as its own Facebook Messenger, the company is now playing a significant role in the mobile messaging market. In terms of subscriber numbers, Facebook owns the world’s biggest pure-play mobile messaging application in WhatsApp, and the world’s biggest picture messaging app in Instagram. By requiring mobile users to download and use Facebook Messenger, as opposed to using messaging on their Facebook mobile app, the company is also likely to increase the penetration of its own mobile messaging app.
“While WhatsApp and Instagram could be regarded as pure-play providers of OTT communications services, it seems that Facebook is increasingly positioning Facebook Messenger as a content platform as well as a communications services platform. Competitors in this market segment include the Asian companies Line, Kakao, and Tencent (WeChat), and North American firms Tango and Kik,” said Clark-Dickson.

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