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  • Meerelle Cruz

Facebook Has Added New Features to Commemorate the Messenger’s 10th Birthday

This week commemorates the tenth anniversary of Facebook Messenger, which was first released as a standalone app in 2011 as part of Facebook's larger effort to dominate the social communications sector.

People only became interested in Messenger in 2014, when Facebook compelled users to download its separate chat app after removing its messaging choices from Facebook itself. Messenger, on the other hand, has grown in popularity since then, gaining millions of new users and establishing itself as one of the top three messaging platforms in the world, alongside WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) and WeChat.

The program has gone through a lot of changes in its first decade, and to commemorate the occasion, Facebook has unveiled a slew of new Messenger features that are intended to both elicit a celebratory mood while also introducing whole new capabilities to encourage more message interaction and usage.

First and foremost, Facebook is introducing new Poll Games in Messenger, an interactive polling feature that allows you to learn more about your friends. You can now use polls to find out what your friends think on issues like who is "most likely to offer gifts on their birthday?" Who is "most likely to fight zombies as everyone else flees?" and who is "most likely to miss their flight?"

You can also create your own poll prompt, which will undoubtedly result in varying degrees of stress and angst. However, it's another way to increase participation in Messenger chats, and it could be a fun way to start a conversation in your groups. To play a poll game in your group chat, go to "Polls" and select the "Most Likely To" tab to choose a question and conversation users' names to be included as potential replies.

Facebook is also introducing a new Messenger feature that allows users to exchange Facebook contacts with their pals. The procedure is rather simple: To share a contact, go to the chat settings and touch "Share Contact" under the "More Actions" section. This might make it easier to contact people via the app and refer people for business, perhaps increasing networking opportunities.

Facebook is also using the event to show off its upcoming Word Effects feature, which is described as "an intriguing new way to connect words with emoticons that have meaning to you and your friends."

As you can see in this example, Phrase Effects allows you to couple an emoji with a specific word or term, resulting in an on-screen explosion of that emoji character anytime that word or term is spoken in your chat. This could be irritating, but it could also be a fun way to spice up your group discussions by highlighting specific terms that are meaningful to you and your pals. Soon, Word Effects will be available in Messenger.

Facebook is also introducing a new birthday gifting option for payments in Messenger, which includes new wrapping paper and virtual balloon effects, as well as a Birthday chat theme and 360 background, all of which contribute to the festive tone. It also includes a birthday song Soundmoji and new messaging effects. If you're enthusiastic about the app's longevity, Facebook has also released a "Messenger is 10!" sticker pack.

Finally, Facebook has released some information about major Messenger milestones, including the fact that voice notes are at an all-time high this year. Perhaps the lockdowns have caused us to miss hearing other people speak, or perhaps it's part of a larger audio social trend. In any case, there are some fascinating insights on Messenger's use over time and the fundamental factors that have driven its development.

When you examine Messenger's varying adjustments, it's tough to gauge its relative success throughout its first decade. Messenger's popularity soared only after Facebook forced users to transfer their private chats to the app, and while it has remained a key connection tool since then, Facebook's efforts to expand its functionality - through Messenger Bots, Games, Stories, and other features - have largely fallen short.

Facebook has struggled to properly monetize the app over time, in part because users are wary of adverts in their personal spaces (see also: WhatsApp), and in part, because it has been compelled to cut down its features to avoid overloading the UI and alienating users. Even though Messenger has 1.3 billion active users, it only did so in 2017. Since then, Facebook hasn't given an updated usage figure.

Is this a sign that Messenger has reached a stalemate, and people are instead opting for other chatting apps like Instagram Direct or WhatsApp? Overall, Facebook's 'Family of Apps' (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp) have 3.5 billion monthly active users and are growing, so the company isn't in danger of losing its audience. However, it appears that it has lost some steam, with Messenger, in particular, appearing to be losing steam. Given this, it's difficult to forecast what the app's future holds. Even with the recent inclusion of more end-to-end encryption options, Messenger remains a key connection choice for many, but the rising drive towards enhanced data privacy does not bode well for the app.

Perhaps Facebook's attempt to combine its messaging apps isn't so much about enhancing functionality as it is about strengthening the company's grip on communications. By combining its two major messaging apps, Facebook can create a massive, interconnected messaging network that benefits from Messenger's western market presence and WhatsApp's superior security and user trust.

The danger is that WhatsApp's security reputation suffers, as it did earlier this year when Facebook changed its Privacy Policy. But, if Facebook can weather the storm, it may be able to cement both apps as essential tools for more users in the future.

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