If there's one thing Facebook owner Meta hates, it's seeing other services raking in lots of advertising money – so when a rival emerges, Meta usually buys it or changes its products to compete more directly with it. It looks like Meta is going for the latter option to take on TikTok, with some significant changes to the Messenger and Facebook apps on iPhones and Android phones.
The first change, as reported by Engadget (opens in new tab), is that Facebook Messenger is going to be moved back into the Facebook mobile app after nine years of being kept separate. That separation is what people like me like about the app, because it means I don't have to deal with the rest of Facebook in order to talk to my pals. And that's exactly why Facebook plans to bring it back into the app. Messenger clearly isn't monetisable enough.
It's part of a wider strategy that you might call "making Facebook even worse".
What's happening to your Facebook feed?
Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret of the fact that the very thing most of us use Facebook for, seeing posts by the people we choose to follow, is not what he wants us to use Facebook for.
That's why in recent years it's become harder and harder to see everything your Facebook friends post, and why people who promote their creative activities or businesses on Facebook effectively have to pay up if they want anybody to see their posts. Facebook's goal is for more and more of your feed to consist of content made by people you don't follow, for example by trying to get you to watch Reels or showing you other content its algorithm reckons you might like. Instagram, also owned by Meta, is going in the same direction.
The strategy is explained in a new Facebook blog post by FB head Tom Alison, who says that "There has been a shift the last couple years with people coming to Facebook more to be entertained, discover something new or see what’s going on in the world." I'm not convinced that's user-led; to me it looks top-down.
But whatever the truth, Facebook is doubling down on showing you stuff from people you don't follow. And the re-integration of Messenger is part of that. Facebook wants to "make it easier for people to share what they discover on Facebook via messaging" because "private conversations are a big way that people share and connect on our apps."
I'm hoping that Messenger remains a standalone app even while its features are duplicated in the Facebook app. But I can't say I'm optimistic about that.