Starting this week, Facebook users with Android and iOS phones will be forced to use the separate Messenger app for their Facebook messages.
Facebook said it would stop allowing both iOS and Android users from using the messages tab in its main iPhone and Android apps, instead redirecting users to the standalone Messenger app, which is Facebook's messaging hub.
With the change, pending messages will still be visible within the main Facebook app, but when users try to send a message in their phone's Facebook app, they will be prompted to download Messenger if they have not already. Facebook had announced the change was coming in April.
Users Not Happy
More than 200 million people use Messenger each month, Facebook said in a statement. More than a billion device users use Facebook at least once a month. The company's U.S. customers spend an average of 40 minutes each day using Facebook on their mobile phones.
Messenger lets users send messages, photos, group messages, videos, stickers and audio clips. Facebook said the move is a result of the positive results it saw when it compelled Facebook users in Europe to use Messenger exclusively earlier this year.
The move this week provoked outrage on social media, as many Facebook-related changes seem to. Users took to Twitter to complain that using Messenger gives increased access to phone data, and to claim that Messenger drains their phone batteries faster.
Facebook said users send more data on Messenger and that message recipients on Messenger reply an average of 20 percent faster. It also said that not supporting multiple versions of mobile chat will help it make both its main apps and Messenger better.
In a blog post late last year, Facebook engineering manager David Garcia wrote: "When we started working on the new Messenger, we needed to create a fast and reliable mobile-to-mobile messaging experience….We focused on improving two key areas -- startup time and overall speed and performance of Messenger on Android and iOS."
Facebook users on mobile Web, iPad, feature phone, Windows Phone, Paper, and desktop users will still be able to message in their main Facebook apps or sites. Previously users could chat via a Messages tab in Facebook's smartphone apps. Downloading Messenger turns the Messages tab into a notifications hub that moves users into Messenger when it's tapped.
Some observers have speculated that the move might be a way for Facebook to increase messaging usage and get consumers used to Facebook's standalone apps, such as Paper and Slingshot.
"As we've said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences," Facebook said in a statement.
Messenger can be downloaded from Google Play or iTunes.