Facebook Messenger Finds Its Voice
The company will launch an update to its Messenger app for iOS and Android on Thursday afternoon, allowing users to send short voice messages to one another inside of the application, up to a minute in length.
A clever addendum, bringing Messenger up to par with Apple’s iMessage service (which lets users send voice messages via the voice memo app) and BlackBerry Messenger, while giving it a leg up on basic SMS.
Which is really the service with the biggest target on its back. SMS, the 160-character message service ubiquitous in every country, dominates communication across the globe, from developing countries to the so-called “first world.” And all of the big mobile players like Apple, Google and Facebook want in on that sort of communication virality.
That virality is the key to growth, especially in developing countries inside of Africa, South America and Asia that Facebook is targeting as the next major areas of expansion. Find a way to break into those markets through free, easy communication services — like, for example, letting users access Facebook Messenger for Android without the need for a Facebook account — and you’ll find a way to grow your user base from the ground up via word of mouth.
Also particularly noteworthy: In Facebook’s update on Thursday, Canadian users on iOS can start using Messenger to make VOIP calls inside the app. That’s a pretty Skypey, Google Voice-y move by the social giant. I can only assume that if the test takes off in Canada, the next move down the line will be video calling.
In essence, owning the chains of communication is Facebook’s best path to growth. Now that the service has saturated most areas of the developed world, hitting the billion-user mark and seeing its growth curve begin to flatten, Facebook must think differently: What are the ways people communicate with one another outside of Facebook? And how can we own them, too?
Cloning Snapchat was just a drop in the bucket. Expect more in 2013.