Facebook Messenger has generated a lot of controversy among users since Facebook decided to make the app mandatory for viewing and responding to messages. Dan Frommer, the tech editor for Quartz, is declaring the app a monster hit, but on closer inspection, that may not be the case.
Frommer cites data from app analysis service AppAnnie, which indicates that Messenger “is currently the No. 1 iPhone app in eight countries, and in the top 10 apps in 126 countries.” He says that the app holds similar popularity on Android operating systems.
Of course, raw download numbers are not a great metric when it comes to analyzing success. According to Localytics, 20 percent of apps are opened once and never used again. Similarly, Frommer cites Comscore data that says that Facebook Messenger had 67 million unique users in August, which compares favorably with Facebook’s 120 million unique users.
However, these could be padded metrics, and maybe 67 million users only represent those visiting the app and turning off all the features. Once those features are disabled, it’s possible to send messages from the main Facebook app.
Frommer admits that in the iOS app store, 85 percent of the reviews for Messenger are one-star reviews, despite describing the dim view of the app as a ‘lingering whine.’ If reviews are anything to go by, most users hate Messenger.
Perhaps the most egregious point he makes is that these numbers are proof Facebook can make a sturdy second product. The problem here is that Facebook didn’t really make a second product. Facebook saw how users loved sending messages, and forced them to use a second app to do it.
The company’s other second-string products like Paper are not going to be as popular as Facebook’s main app, something that Mark Zuckerberg admits: “Most of these new things that we’re doing aren’t going to move any needles in our business for a very long time.”
All this said, Facebook Messenger will likely find its way onto a lot of phones, but mostly because it has to if users want basic functionality. The only other option is the mobile web page in a browser, which doesn’t deliver push notifications.
Early user downloading doesn’t prove Messenger is successful any more than losing at a rigged game shows poor strategy. Messenger’s metrics could appear to improve in the coming months, but there seems to be quite a bit of backlash.