The most recent flurry in the tech grapevine was a report that Facebook was in a mood to spend more money and buy out WhatsApp. It seemed absurd that Facebook would bother wasting time with that when it could spend the same time, energy and earnings to further develop its own Messenger app for mobiles. It did, however; seem like a possibility seeing as how it bought off Instagram instantly, quashing any actual rivalry for its own photo sharing feature. So why not do the same with WhatsApp? Make them an offer they can’t refuse, add a dash of FB integration and sit back and watch the numbers grow.

Of course, the news was just not true. Facebook decided to simply fight the competition on its own turf. Perhaps an offer was made… maybe even rejected. The fact is, Facebook has now entered the mobile web messaging foray with guns blazing. The all-new messenger is not quite unlike WhatsApp at all though. In fact, it has all the features you’re used to on WhatsApp built right in. From sending files across to adding a bunch of crazy looking smileys, emoticons etc., it’s all there.

While Facebook might not have brought anything truly and significantly new to the game, what it has done is make the new Facebook messenger available to non-FB users. Thus, the company intends to tap into that handful of friends you might have who aren’t on FB but can now use the messaging service as a standalone utility, without needing an account. I'm positive that slowly but surely, the black hole-like pull of the social network will indubitably weave its way into the new users' base. And that’s it, they’ll be hooked. 

The new sheriff in town

The new sheriff in town

It might seem as redundancy at best, seeing how the FB messenger app was released only a little while ago when WhatsApp and others were peaking out. The initial response to the new app wasn't too overwhelming, thus prompting the need for an overhaul/update. The Facebook app was also already able to receive chat notifications, albeit in a post-esqe form, but having a standalone app makes quite a difference. On the other hand, it could have simply been incorporated into the original application, but that might have only slowed the system down further. This also poses an issue for those who use third party Facebook apps like FriendCaster. You’ll end up getting messages and notifications twice over, cluttering up your notification bar. 

However, all that being said, FB’s new messenger does pose a very legitimate threat to WhatsApp. For one thing, unlike other adversaries – BBM, iMessage or ChatOn, it’s a cross platform player just like WhatsApp. It’s not tied into a single OS and a very large number of users are already constantly connected to Facebook on their mobile devices as it is.

While WhatsApp might be recording around 10 billion messages per day (outbound and inbound), Facebook has over a Billion users who simply choose to use another app for lack of features available with Facebook's native offering. Naturally, the number of users online at the same time is also potentially larger than those that WhatsApp can account for, even if messages aren’t really going across in nearly the same volume. But the thing is, with Facebook and its mesenger, you're already pretty much logged into the system, even if you don't know it.

Keeping with today’s trend of posting whatever you see, tagging friends, sharing locations etc., Facebook has all exits covered. WhatsApp’s UI is still a little better in terms of simplicity, but today almost anything and everything you can think of is linked to your Facebook account. And that’s where Facebook beats WhatsApp.

Zuckerberg's plan was to figure out a way to tap into the next Billion user base anyway, and it seems like he just found a way to do it.

Publish date: December 7, 2012 5:49 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 5:22 am

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