Facebook Launches Stand-Alone Messaging App

Plus: Network and Calif. prisons delete inmate accounts

Facebook messaging just got a whole lot easier. Yesterday, the social networking site launched Facebook Messenger, a new app for iPhone and Android that allows the network’s users to send messages and texts without having to go through the full Facebook app.

The app is a revamp of Beluga, a group messaging app that Facebook acquired in April. “It’s a mobile app about real-time communication,” Beluga co-founder and Facebook engineer Ben Davenport told Mashable.

Once users log into Messenger with their Facebook user name, they can manage their current Facebook messages or write new ones, all of which can be sent either through Facebook Messenger or SMS. Users can also add photos and name message threads for easier organizing. Message alerts are customizable, allowing users to receive new message alerts right away, or delay them for an hour or until 8 a.m. the next day.

The app has already proved a big hit: By this morning, it was the top free app in the iTunes App Store, with over 900 ratings and a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

In other Facebook news, the company is working with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to terminate accounts being used by prison inmates, some of whom have used the site to send threats or sexual advances to victims from prison.

“Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “This new cooperation between law enforcement and Facebook will help protect the community and potentially avoid future victims.”