Facebook Messenger moves out

Facebook recently launched a standalone, web-based version of their Messenger service atmessenger.com, where users can send and receive messages just like they can on Facebook — without all the Facebook.

If you’ve used the Messenger app on your smartphone you’ll be familiar with the interface, which is like a blown-up version of the app. There’s a column of open conversations listed on the left, a central chat window and information about the currently selected user on the right — and that’s it. There’s nothing else to interact with, which can be refreshing if you’re using Facebook more as a business tool than a space to chit-chat.

There are obvious positives to this, especially if we each honestly look at how many times we’ve loaded up Facebook to send an important message, spotted something interesting on the newsfeed and been caught up in a 40-minute journey through cat pictures, weird tips that doctors hate and realizing, halfway through a round of Words With Friends, that we never sent that message.

Another bonus is the new emphasis on using Messenger as a platform of its own, with features added like free money transfers between Facebook friends, third-party app integration and a new business chat function that allows customers to connect directly with customer service departments and get help on service and account issues, without tying up phone lines.

Facebook already allows businesses to create company pages where customers can send messages, but the new business chat feature will take things further, allowing users to connect directly with customer service departments, receive information about their services, orders or accounts and make changes accordingly. Business chat and the other new features haven’t yet been integrated into the web version of Messenger, but are on their way.

As handy as these features are, there could be downsides hidden behind the modern convenience. For one, Facebook itself started as a simple service that offered better communication. Then came pokes, Farmville, advertising and dozens of other new features that crowded the site so much that giving Messenger a site of its own is a bit of a relief. The third-party app integration present in the mobile version has a bit of that same feel, with most of the 40 initial apps centered around sharing funny gifs and having messages sung to the recipients — plenty of fun, iffy for business.

Even the minimalism that currently serves as a strong selling point could change in the future, since Facebook will almost certainly not give users an option to use their chat service without being exposed to advertising. The company pulled in $2.68 billion dollars from ads during just one quarter in 2014, with 62 percent of that coming from mobile users even after the split between the Facebook and Messenger into two separate apps, with the Messenger app featuring no advertising. With both apps monetized that revenue could greatly increase, and those changes could creep into the web-based Messenger service as well.

For now, though, we can enjoy the low-key communications service and wait patiently for Clash of Clans integration.