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August 14, 2014 11:02 pm
Facebook is suffering a backlash from users pushed into downloading a separate app for messages as part of its strategy to dominate the smartphone with a portfolio of apps.
The social network’s Facebook Messenger app received almost 50,000 reviews with a rating of one star across all the app stores since the start of the month, or nearly 95 per cent of all the reviews posted, according to App Annie, an app analytics company.
Users criticised Facebook for forcing them to download a separate app to reach their messages, with some accusing the company of a lack of respect for user feedback. Not all users have yet been prompted to download the messenger app, as the company rolls out the product gradually.
“Why create two apps to do the work of one app and website that has remained unchanged for years? Bigger is not always better,” said one user in the US Apple store.
Another described it as “the worst thing that I have ever been forced to download”. “Dear Facebook, I don’t really use you that much, because you are dying out and for old people. I try to use you as little as possible, which is why I am not trying to download another Facebook app.”
Some also worried about the privacy implications of the messenger app, concerned about the level of permissions it requires.
Facebook has since explained the reasons behind some requests. For example, users were worried about the app’s ability to record audio, believing it would monitor background activity. This feature, however, was designed to allow them to send voice messages and make calls.
Facebook Messenger was first launched as an option in 2011, but in April it announced it would be moving messages out of the main Facebook app. The social network argues that a separate app makes it easier to access messages with fewer taps on the smartphone and encourages faster and more reliable communications.
A spokesperson said: “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. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.”
User outpourings over changes on social media are common and Facebook has regularly experienced criticism in the past, as far back as introducing the news feed on its main site in 2006.
But the reaction to Messenger could have wider implications as other technology companies are watching Facebook’s multi-app strategy closely as they manage their own transition to mobile devices. Dropbox and Foursquare have already begun to experiment with the launch of separate apps.
The messenger app is the first of many standalone apps that Facebook is planning in an attempt to engage users for even more of their time on mobile. Already people in the US spend one in five minutes on their smartphones using Facebook, the company said on its most recent earnings call.
The social network has also launched Paper, an app which curates news stories on the site, and Slingshot, a Snapchat competitor, and indicated it may break out other features, such as Groups, into a separate app.
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