Facebook pips Apple iMessage to post

Pamela Clark-Dickson/Informa Telecoms & Media
17 Aug 2011

Facebook has taken the wraps off Facebook Messenger, a separate mobile messaging application which has been developed by the same team that developed the Beluga group messaging application. Facebook acquired Beluga in March. 2011. Facebook Messenger will compete with BlackBerry Messenger and Apple’s forthcoming iMessage, in that it will provide a messaging-over-IP (MoIP) capability.

However, Facebook Messenger will have the edge over both RIM and Apple in that it can provide a cross-platform messaging application, specifically for the iPhone and Android mobile operating systems, and so it will therefore also compete against applications such as WhatsApp and KakaoTalk. Facebook has stated that it is also developing Facebook Messenger for the BlackBerry.

Assuming that Facebook Messenger provides a compelling messaging experience, it has the potential to achieve a greater reach than BBM, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk or the as-yet-unlaunched iMessage. According to Facebook, it has more than 250 million active mobile users, and these users are twice as active as non-mobile users of Facebook. In addition, the company has partnerships with 200 mobile operators in 60 countries.

This larger addressable market is a key differentiator between Facebook and other messaging application providers. Facebook already has a massive installed base of users, on both the mobile and the PC, to which it can promote Messenger, which will be available to subscribers to download for free.

The company says the overall Facebook messaging experience will be faster with the Messenger application, which will definitely be seen as an advantage by Facebook Mobile users who are also heavy users of Facebook Messages. Facebook Messenger will also enable “free” messaging (over IP), group messaging (courtesy of Facebook’s acquisition of Beluga), and integration with the phone’s address book so that Facebook Messenger users can send messages to non-Facebook Messenger users via SMS.

Facebook Messenger’s integration with Facebook Messages and the phone address book, and its inclusion of Beluga’s group messaging capabilities, gives it a potential edge over the other messaging applications, and may be a key factor in inducing either churn among the existing users of these applications, or in encouraging adoption by new users.

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