Facebook Messenger hits 500M user milestone

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Facebook Messenger — the standalone app where Facebook users check messages — has hit 500 million monthly active users, the company announced Monday.

The controversial app, which was attacked for confusingly-worded and scary-sounding permissions, launched in 2011 and has grown considerably. Nearly half of Facebook’s 1.35 billion users now have the Messenger app on their phone.

Facebook’s Peter Martinazzi, Director of Product Management, wrote a Newsroom post about Messenger’s newest milestone:

Today more than 500 million people are using Messenger each month and we’re more committed than ever to make it the best possible messaging experience.

Messenger was the first of our standalone apps, and unlike our core Facebook apps, it focused on one use case – messaging. With Messenger, you can reach people instantly. It is just as fast as SMS but gives you the ability to express yourself in ways that SMS can’t. You can send stickers or videos, take selfies, chat with groups and make free calls. We’ve also continued to improve speed and reliability. Updates to Messenger ship every two weeks so it continues to evolve and improve.

Messenger has come under fire in recent months, as messaging was unbundled from the native Facebook app for a faster experience. Many users felt they were forced to download Messenger just to check messages and have been unhappy with the way Facebook has handled this.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a recent Q&A, defended the company’s decision:

Asking everyone in our community to install another app is a big ask. That required work and a lot of friction and I just want to acknowledge that up front. The reason why we wanted to do this is because we really believe that this is a better experience. We think that messaging is becoming increasingly important. On mobile, each app can focus on doing one thing well. The primary purpose of the Facebook app is News Feed. … What we saw was all of the messaging apps that people were using, that they relied on the most, were these dedicated, standalone experience.

We realize that we have a lot to earn, in terms of trust and proving that this standalone messaging experience is going to be really good. We’re really committed to doing that.

Readers: Have you installed (or uninstalled) Facebook Messenger?