For the past one week, Facebook has been getting a lot of attention. First, for the anticipated acquisition of WhatsApp, a popular cross-platform mobile messaging app that lets users send messages across various platforms like Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone. This has elicited trade pundits to share their gyaan on why Facebook shouldn’t buy WhatsApp and should invest more in building its own mobile app, which has been quite an Achilles heel for the social networking giant. However, all these rumors were soon quelled by the folks at WhatsApp officially denying that they were in talks with FB to sell the company. Rumors are no fun if they come to an abrupt end so soon 🙁
The latest news doing the rounds is about a new mobile messaging app launched by Facebook that does not even require a Facebook account! Yup, you heard it right. All you need is a name and a phone number and you are all set to text. The app is similar to WhatsApp; it pulls the contacts from your address book and lets you send messages to contacts who need not necessarily be on Facebook. Currently it is available as an Android app and Facebook has launched it in select countries like India, Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela and South Africa.
Facebook has decided to kill two birds with a single stone by launching its app in the emerging markets where it does not yet have a stronghold and by choosing to release its app first on Android platform, which is probably the most dominant smartphone platform especially in the emerging markets. Though some might argue that Facebook has passed on a golden chance to enroll more users by not making it mandatory to use the app, I believe it is a clever bet.
The biggest concern with users for not using Facebook is privacy. By making the app available to all, Facebook is essentially planning to get its app into as many hands as possible. If Facebook manages to pull it off and the messaging app comes out as a considerable alternative to the current popular messaging apps like Nimbuzz, WhatsApp or ChatOn it will give Facebook a much needed foothold in the mobile arena. The success of this app will be two-fold:
- Ads: Though the current version of the app is ad-free, I am sure Facebook will consider targeting users with ads soon. Given the fact that a Facebook knows everything about us, the friends we are chatting with and what they like, the ads will be quite ‘personal’. Though this may not appeal to some privacy advocates, there are some who might thank Facebook for reminding them to buy a gift for their friend’s anniversary.
- More users: Once the users like the messaging app and are willing to create their Facebook profile, it will add a few more users to the ever-growing billion plus social network.
Either way it looks like a win-win for Facebook. Well, all that droidfooding seems to have done some good after all. Its too early to decide if this mobile bet will pay off or not. Have you tried the new messaging and if so, what do you think of it.
This article has been reproduced from Sridhar’s blog.