Facebook wants to simplify your inbox with a redesign of Messenger that allows users to sort threads beyond the typical chronological ordering.
“We’re taking a first try at reinventing the inbox,” said David Marcus, vice president of messaging products, at the Wired Business Conference in New York on Thursday. “It’s always been this chronological list of threads. Probably the first five threads are relevant to you at any different time.”
With the update, Messenger now has a completely different home screen. It will list the five latest threads at the top of the screen and then be followed by a favorites section, the users with whom you message most. The next section will list your Facebook friends who are celebrating a birthday and the last part is a list of whoever is active now.
Interestingly, Facebook faced backlash in April after a Cosmopolitan article exposed a hidden inbox in Messenger containing message requests from people outside the users’ “friends” circle.
Facebook hopes the changes will spur users to message more within Messenger. “Maybe that will prompt you to say hi!” the blog post on the update reads. So far, 900 million people use Messenger each month, slightly fewer than the 1 billion using Facebook’s other messaging app, WhatsApp.
Facebook has been retooling Messenger as the go-to app for reaching people as well as businesses. Facebook opened Messenger as a platform for developers in April so that businesses could create chat bots. The system allows publications like CNN and retailers like 1-800-Flowers to deliver news and products to users through automation.
In recent weeks, Facebook has introduced other improvements to Messenger, including SMS messaging for the Android version of the app as well as hundreds of Facebook’s own emoji. Messenger users now have usernames and QR codes that allow them to start new conversations.
Facebook’s Marcus dodged Wired senior writer Marcus Wolhsen’s question on whether Facebook is trying to make a “universal app,” similar to popular Chinese messaging app WeChat. “If you solve a real problem then people use your app. We believe we can solve a lot of problems that have been known in the mobile era,” Marcus said.
But do users even want such an app? Following a Facebook mantra, Marcus said Facebook would convince people to come to the app “by building it.” Facebook has also faced criticism for “growth hacking” its apps by requiring users to download them if they wish to still have functions previously within the core Facebook app.
The redesigned inbox will roll out to users in the coming weeks. More sections will be added in the future, Marcus said.