Facebook notified users and confirmed to the press yesterday that instant messaging functionality will be disappearing from its iOS and Android apps in the coming weeks. If users want to keep chatting, they’ll have to download Facebook’s separate Messenger app. It’s one thing to roll out specialized apps like Messenger, Paper, and Camera as optional alternatives for using Facebook, but quite another to force the issue and risk a real sacrifice in user engagement. Some people will upgrade to the Messenger app right away; many others will not. The net result, at least in the short-term, will be fewer people to chat with. Why would Facebook make that kind of sacrifice?
The resounding consensus among the Facebook experts I talked to is that the company is finally making the jump to thinking and acting like an app maker, a software company the keeps functionality narrow and targeted. While users may grow attached to services that work the way they’re used to, like the full-featured Facebook app, the growing Silicon Valley consensus is that people really want a more bite-sized future.