For many people, chatting to friends is a major reason to use Facebook’s app on their smartphone.
But soon they will have to download the social network’s partner app, called Messenger, to carry on their instant conversations.
Facebook is reportedly notifying users of its popular app that they will no longer be able to send ‘chat’ messages and will instead have to swap to Messenger, which was launched three years ago. It follows the company’s acquisition of another popular messaging app, WhatsApp, for US$19billion
As Guardian Reports, Facebook will remove chat from its iPhone and Android app, forcing users to download its separate Messenger app if they want to continue sending and receiving private messages.
Facebook plans to eventually require that users in all countries install the Messenger app, spokesman Derick Mains said, though he could not provide a specific timeframe for the change.
The free, standalone Messenger app is faster than the messaging service that is, for now, built into the main Facebook’s mobile app. Facebook users can also access more features in the Messenger app, such as the ability to make voice phone calls over Wi-Fi in some countries and send text messages on Android.
The social network acquired one of its biggest messaging competitors, WhatsApp, for $19bn in February, which then announced it would be adding voice calling to its service later that month at Mobile World Congress.
CNN Reports that Facebook started notifying some users last week. The update will roll out first to Android and iOS users in a handful of European countries, according to a Facebook spokeswoman.
“Messenger is a much faster and better experience and we’ve found that people get replies 20% faster on Messenger than on Facebook,” the spokeswoman said in an e-mail. “Taking messages out of the Facebook app also lets us focus on making Messenger even better for everyone rather than working on two separate Facebook messaging experiences.”
Facebook’s move to encourage users to install a separate messaging app on their phones could help boost the popularity of Facebook Messenger, but could also cause a backlash if consumers view the action as heavy-handed. It will also directly compete with WhatsApp.
Facebook has increasingly moved into the mobile space, seeing it as a way to continue expanding its 1.2 billion-strong user base. It has developed or acquired a catalogue of standalone apps in addition to its main app over the past few years.
In January, Facebook launched Paper, a photo-heavy news-reading app that has earned positive reviews. Facebook also acquired photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012, which recently reached 200 million users.
Facebook’s rumoured electronic saving and payment services as compiled by DailyMail
In the future, Facebook’s 1.2-billion users could use the network to make electronic payments and save money as well as send messages.
The social network is rumoured to be seeking regulatory approval to offer financial services – including electronic money and remittances – which would, for example, allow foreign workers to easily transfer money back to their families.
Facebook is seeking regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Ireland, which, if it is granted, would allow people to store money on the social network, transfer it to other users and pay for goods, according to a report by The Financial Times.
The Central Bank of Ireland told MailOnline ‘it is not commenting on the issue at the moment’, and Facebook said it does not comment on rumour or speculation.
A move into remittances would help Facebook gain an even stronger foothold in emerging markets including India and Africa.
While Facebook has not commented on the rumours a source, said to be familiar with the details, told The FT: ‘Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion.’
If those in developing nations flock to Facebook, the company would boost its advertising revenues, and e-money services could become a big attraction – it would be particularly useful to users in areas without easy access to banks.
Elizabeth Cobbett, lecturer in International Political Economy at the University of East Anglia (UEA), told MailOnline: ‘The materiality of banking and finance is changing rapidly and this change is most visible in emerging markets where they do not have the infrastructure in place. So it is a clean slate for new technology.
‘This is clearly evident in Africa. Facebook wants in on the game and the huge potential market.’
She explained that there are two-and-a-half billion ‘unbanked’ adults across the globe and so the potential market is huge.