Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has more than 1 billion mobile users for the Facebook app, but its recently spun-off Facebook Messenger app serves a smaller crowd. Re/code reported in late April that 200 million users had the Messenger app, making it smaller than Facebook’s recent $19 billion purchase WhatsApp, which has about 500 million users. Snapchat is smaller, but its very active user base sends the most messages, according to recent reports.
So far, Facebook’s approach to growing its native chat app has been to add lots of bells and whistles in recent upgrades to the Facebook Messenger app. (Some of these features have also shown up in the desktop version.) Plus, removing the messaging features from the regular Facebook app certainly helped grow the number of users, but that growth came with a catch. Now that’s its been spun off, Facebook Messenger has to compete with all the other messaging and chat apps available to grow its audience. It has to be cool.
Recent upgrades have added stickers, audio messages, photo sharing, and the ability to send 15-second video messages — features that have long been a part of other chat apps and also in Facebook-owned Instagram. In a sense, Facebook is playing catch-up now that Facebook Messenger is a standalone app that has to compete against other messaging services available, a factor that may have caught the company unprepared as it unbundled the Facebook app. Although Facebook says it doesn’t compete against WhatsApp, it’s in the same category that includes Snapchat and other messaging apps. It’s a tough road when Facebook is no longer the cool kid it was back in 2007.