From Messenger to Slingshot to Paper to Rooms: How successful are Facebook’s new apps?

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Facebook attracts more than a billion mobile users each month and 66 percent of its revenues come from this channel. In fact, mobile users spend 20 percent of their mobile time on Facebook!

Facebook’s success on mobile, whether from the point of view of the audience size or monetization, is unparalleled.

Instagram and WhatsApp (acquired respectively in April 2012 and February 2014) are two other social apps also with phenomenal audience success, although several notches below. They’re not profit centers yet and will not be discussed here.

What about the blue giant’s mobile diversification strategy beyond the main app and purchased successes?

We won’t consider the challenges of monetization here, only the one of user base growth that is so crucial in the social media sector by virtue of the network’s effect. In any event, today being able to capture a large and sticky audience is enough to guarantee monetization in one way or another at some point in the eyes of the Silicon Valley barons.

We won’t look into apps intended for a restricted public such as Facebook Mentions (for public figures and organizations) and Facebook Pages Manager (for marketers). We’ll also leave Home aside as it’s a very unique Android-only app, (it lets Facebook take control of the home screen).

To date, Facebook Inc. has launched 9 apps for the general public:

  • Facebook Messenger (launched in August 2011, 500 million monthly users, between 500 million and 1 billion downloads from Google Play to date, and also the most downloaded app in the US across all sectors on Android and iOS this month according to App Annie)
  • Facebook Camera (launched in May 2012, presented by the media as the answer to Instagram, shut down in May 2014)
  • Facebook Poke (launched in December 2012, presented by the media as the answer to Snapchat, shut down in May 2014)
  • Facebook Paper (launched in January 2014 only for iOS, the 30th most downloaded news app in the US this month, but absent from the top 1500 overall as well as the social media top 1500)
  • Slingshot (launched in June 2014, presented by the media as the second answer to Snapchat, less than 500,000 downloads from Google Play to date, and 530th most downloaded photo/video app in the US this month)
  • Bolt via Instagram (launched in July 2014, approximately the 150th most downloaded photo/video application this month in the secondary markets where it has been launched like in South Africa or Malaysia)
  • Hyperlapse via Instagram (launched in August 2014 only on iOS, 60th most downloaded photo/video app in the US this month and 645thin the US overall standings)
  • Facebook Rooms (which was just launched at the end of October 2014)
  • Facebook Groups (launched earlier this week)

How to make sense of all these mobile experiments ?

First, it is beneficial to first read the “Gospel According to St. Mark,” from which it appears that Facebook Inc. is a 3-stage rocket:

  • The original Facebook, which is racing far ahead.
  • The big audience successes that are Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, “They will probably be the next things that will become businesses at Facebook. But you want to fast-forward three years before that will actually be a meaningful thing.”
  • Everything else, which is assigned to the new “Creative Labs” launched in January 2014, and or which Mark Zuckerberg is happy to take his time. “Maybe in three to five years those will be in the stage where Instagram and Messenger are now.”

It is therefore understandable that Messenger must be separated from the 7 other applications mentioned earlier because for them, it appears, there is no hurry.

To explain just that, Josh Miller, Rooms Product Manager, likes to refer to Twitter founders  (“Look, a year and half in with Twitter, we weren’t really sure if it was working. The growth was kind of flat,”) and even Snapchat (“Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, tweeted me that Snapchat took a year before it had any growth at all, and a lot of products these days he thinks see this unnecessary pressure to grow quicker.”)