"Relevance" has long been a byword at Facebook, especially in terms of how the social network manages what users see on their News Feeds. And now, the company aims to take that approach to its Messenger app to help make it easier for users to "start conversations."
Facebook today began rolling out a number of changes to the mobile app's interface aimed at helping users more quickly and easily find people they want to message. Vice president of messaging products David Marcus noted in a post on his Facebook page that the update is the company's "first stab at reinventing the inbox."
With the changes being introduced globally this week, the home interface of the Messenger app will now include a "Favorites" section showing a user's most frequent contacts, along with an "Active Now" feature showing who's currently online. The update -- arriving for both Android and iOS -- will also add birthday reminders for a user's contacts.
No More 'Dull, Chronological Lists'
"Up until now, most inbox experiences haven't kept up with the new ways people connect," Facebook said in today's news announcement. "So, we've been thinking about how we can make it simpler and easier to find what you want to start a conversation."
In his Facebook post, Marcus added that the latest Messenger update aims to replace "dull, chronological lists of threads" with an approach that's more useful and relevant for individual users. (Facebook has long used that approach for users' News Feeds, where algorithms are employed to show more "relevant" content ahead of other updates.)
This is the second announcement in as many days that Facebook has made about Messenger. Yesterday, the company said it was updating the Android version of its app to integrate Messenger texts with standard SMS text messages. The change gives Android users the option of using Messenger to communicate with all of their messaging contacts, whether or not those people also use Messenger.
A 'Natural Evolution' for Facebook
Julie A. Ask, an analyst at Forrester Research, told us today that Facebook's latest Messenger update was a "no brainer."
To succeed in a mobile environment, said Ask -- a vice president and principal analyst serving e-business and channel strategy professionals -- today's major tech companies have to find ways to keep their users in that environment for longer periods of time. That's especially true since just a handful of mobile apps currently dominate the user market, she said.
"Consumers spend 84% of their time in just five apps," Ask said. "Facebook owns a lot of those mobile moments."
Whether it's Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon or Microsoft, companies that target those mobile moments "will all fight fiercely to own this," Ask added. This latest Messenger update, she noted, was not a surprise but simply a "natural evolution of the Facebook platform."
Launched by Facebook as a mobile messaging app in 2011, Messenger now has more than 900 million monthly active users.