Facebook pitches mobile messaging app

Social networking giant Facebook has taken the wraps off Facebook Messenger, a dedicated mobile messaging application which will compete with Blackberry Messenger and over the top offerings like WhatsApp, as well as SMS.

The offering was developed in-house by Beluga, which was acquired by Facebook back in March, and integrates with Facebook Messages and the phone address book, giving it something of an edge, although it should be noted that as a standalone app, users will need to download it even if they already have Facebook mobile.

According to Facebook, it has more than 250 million active mobile users, and these users are twice as active as non-mobile users of Facebook. In addition, the company has partnerships with 200 mobile operators in 60 countries.

Pamela Clark-Dickson, senior analyst for messaging at Informa Telecoms & Media, notes that Facebook Messenger will have the edge over both RIM’s Blackberry Messenger and Apple’s forthcoming iMessage in that it can provide a cross-platform messaging application, specifically for the iPhone and Android mobile operating systems, although not yet on Blackberry, and non-smartphone users can also reply to Facebook messages via text.

“Assuming that Facebook Messenger provides a compelling messaging experience, it has the potential to achieve a greater reach than BBM, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk or the as-yet-unlaunched iMessage,” said Clark-Dickson.

“Facebook Messenger’s integration with the phone address book may also be a key factor in inducing either churn among the existing users of other, similar applications, or in encouraging adoption by new users. However, Facebook Messenger is a separate application, and so it is possible that mobile Facebook users may not see enough additional value in Facebook Messenger that they would download and use it,” she adds.

With regards to Facebook’s mobile operator partners, these will likely also benefit, in that messages will continue to be delivered via texts, so mobile operators will still generate data and SMS traffic, and revenues.

Survey findings published this week by analyst firm CCS Insight highlight a dramatic change in how consumers use their mobile phones, noting that Facebook’s Messages, Chat and Photos are some of the most popular mobile services across Europe, with the social network now one of the top three providers for messaging and in a prime position to be a major destination for watching video clips too.

“Facebook is fast becoming the default destination for all things mobile,” said Paolo Pescatore, director of applications and content, CCS Insight.

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