Facebook Messenger has been released, with big claims and at least one hidden surprise.
Smartphone users now have "A Faster Way to Message on Mobile," according to the Facebook blog that announced Facebook Messenger, which commiserated that "it isn't always easy to know the best way to reach someone on their phone. Should you send an email or text? Which will they check first? Did they even get your last message? "We think messaging should be easier than that. You should be able to write a message, click "Send" and know that you will reach the person right away."
With widespread coverage of the supposed role that BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) has played in the UK rioting of the last several days -- to the extent that many news outlets are referring to them as the "BlackBerry Riots" -- one might think that Facebook picked the wrong time to release an app that is so likely to garner comparisons to BBM.
However, that's almost exactly what Facebook Messenger is: like BBM, it's a fast, cheap, and easy way to communicate, and it's integrated with your Facebook friends but also with your mobile's phonebook.
But it also takes on another service, one which has received considerable media attention recently. The Huddle feature of the Google+ mobile app allows the very useful group messaging option, and therefore had an edge on its larger social networking rival until Facebook Messenger allowed smartphone users to do it as well. This includes group photosharing and pinpointing members' current locations as well.
And given code snippets uncovered by 9to5Mac, Facebook Messenger also seems to include group videoconferencing -- possibly a tie-in to G=Facebook's recently-announced Skype video conferencing capabilities. This would lessen the lead that yet another Google+ feature (Hangouts) may have, although neither one is actually accessible on smartphones as yet.
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