It’s no secret that Facebook is working to merge its multiple chat platforms – Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. While the unified experience hasn’t hit WhatsApp just yet, Messenger on October 13 got a major overhaul. If it wasn’t clear before, it is very clear now – Messenger and Instagram will become one.
Facebook has been making changes at the backend for months, but this is the first major user-end change we have seen of the project. With the US Congress investigation into the company’s supposed antitrust activities now wrapped up, Facebook is sending out a clear message. If Congress assumed it could break up the company before, it is almost certainly going to be impossible now.
While any legislation is months away (if not more) from happening, Facebook’s project has been gathering steam. Here’s a look at the new version of Facebook Messenger.
New Logo and Look
Facebook has decided to use Instagram’s colourful gradient for the app’s logo. In a blog post, Messenger VP Stan Chudnovsky said that the visual update is meant to “mark our continued evolution from a simple way to message your Facebook friends.” It’s all part of Facebook’s plan to allow users to message cross-platform.
Along with the logo, Facebook is bringing a new default chat colour and chat themes. This one is interesting, as Facebook has long allowed users to change the chat theme on Messenger but not Instagram. Between the two, I’ve always preferred Messenger’s dynamic and customisable chat. Instagram’s chat has always looked like a boring version of iMessage, I’d really like to see chat themes come to the ‘gram.
Along with the new look, Messenger is also gaining some interesting features. You now get selfie stickers to make your selfies more interesting. There’s also a vanish mode a-la Snapchat. Of course, we don’t know the specifics just yet, we’ll have to wait and see exactly how quickly the chat vanishes.
Right now, Messenger is like WeChat. There’s a lot of features, each clamouring for attention and crowding the app. While Facebook has done well to remove some of them, like bots, others remain. Messenger Rooms and ‘watch together’ are just two of those. With most people still staying at home, these are great ways to stay connected.
The biggest and most important update is cross-app communication. That means your Facebook friends will be able to message you on Instagram and vice versa. The feature will be rolled out to North American users ‘soon’. This is big, and if Facebook gets it right has a lot of potential.
Right now, I use Instagram to share Instagram posts with friends, but have to turn to Messenger to share Facebook posts with the same person. With cross-platform messaging, I could share both from a single app, giving me just one thread. That’s huge, but only if Facebook plays it right. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. The feature is coming to North America “later this year”, and there’s no word on an international rollout.
As of now, Facebook and Instagram still feel like two individual apps. By integrating the chat functionality, Facebook is helping to bridge that divide. A single unified chat platform for both apps would not only make them more useful, but also easy to use. I’d love to have a single thread for all my communications, including WhatsApp someday.
The lack of that is why I prefer iMessage, it’s a unified thread across devices and works well. Sure, it’s not as feature rich or backed by a social network, but it’s one place for my chats. If Facebook can do that, I just might be interested in jumping back on board again, and I am sure I am not the only one.