It’s very hard to comprehend how large a number a billion is. It’s, well, insanely large. A million of millions, if you will. To have a billion of anything would count as a success, but to have an app with almost a billion downloads, well that takes a special kind of app, you’d agree. So, it’s only suitable to bring one of the people behind Messenger to Spark.Me and have him tell us about its success. Andrew Song, the product manager on the Messenger team, gave us a great presentation about the app, and some fresh insight into Facebook’s plans, too.
First things first. One of the, well, first things Andrew said after taking the stage at this years’ Spark.Me conference is that he is truly delighted to be part of a team that made an app that is as widely used as Messenger is. Messenger is shaping up to be the future of communication. Along with WhatsApp, Messenger is steadily revolutionizing chatting and keeping in touch with your friends both in the old-fashioned text communication but also by allowing users to do things they never could before, such as talk to bots or similar stuff. Facebook’s own David Marcus announced that Messenger had a billion of Android downloads back in 2015, but Andrew said that number is more in the neighbourhood of 900 million. Still impressive, if we may add.
Holding Its Own
When it initially released in 2011, Messenger was still a part of the core Facebook app but that changed in 2014 when it became a separate entity in the world of apps made by Facebook. Even though that decision spawned some backlash, the app has been running ever since with great success.
One of the main advantages of being a separate app is that Messenger is now much lighter, Andrew said. He quoted an increase of speed in the app of around 20% and said that it’s much, much easier to make changes inside the app now that it doesn’t have the shadow of the Facebook app looming over it. This has shown on the app, too. Since departing from the core Facebook app, Messenger has incorporated various things into itself, most of which would be much harder to do if it was still part of the Facebook app. These include free VoIP calls, a revamped location system, group calls for up to 50 people and more goodies.
One of the most fun things Andrew mentioned is the famous basketball app inside Messenger. He said that it was the idea of a colleague that took off more than anyone in the team could ever imagine. From a cool Easter egg in the app, it became a sensation mentioned by almost every news outlet in the world. You could say that the Messenger team really scored a three-pointer with the basketball app and that three-pointer came all the way from the other side of the court because nobody aimed for it to be that successful.
Privacy Is THE Most Important Part
Sports aside, one of the greatest challenges Messenger faces is privacy. Andrew noted that there isn’t anything more important to them than the privacy of their customers and that they are always looking to find ways of improving the user experience. Privacy is, of course, a big part of that because nobody would want to use a messaging app that isn’t secure. He also added that the Messenger team has left out a sizeable chunk of room for developers to work with and create different apps for the world’s leading messaging platform.
Lastly, when comparing WhatsApp with Messenger, Andrew said that both the WhatsApp team and the Messenger team are hugely different and that both teams are made by people with different ideas. WhatsApp started its life as a free SMS alternative that really kicked off in countries where SMS prices are really high, whereas Messenger started its life as a part of the Facebook experience. Both teams try to learn as much as they can from their respective users and are answering different questions from different users to make everyone’s lives just a little bit easier.
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