Facebook Messenger app: Merging the lines between email and instant messaging

I’ve been making use of Facebook‘s new Messenger app for the past few weeks, and it’s fair to say it’s made a big difference to the way I use Facebook as a whole. In fact, their new service seems to be blurring the lines between email and instant messaging.

The app is still unavailable within the UK iTunes Store, despite working absolutely fine. This is probably as a result of the negative press around Blackberry’s BBM service after the rioting across the UK. I managed to download the app thanks to a US iTunes account I have access to.

When using the full Facebook iPhone app, a notification of a new message would sometimes take hours to arrive. This would deter me from dropping a line to friends through Facebook as I wouldn’t be sure if the message would arrive or not.

Notifications from the Messenger app are now almost instant - blurring the line between an instant messenger and email and making Facebook’s Messages strategy from last last year even more real.

In perhaps a precursor to the changes announced this week to the way Facebook Places works, you can also append your location to a message, so friends can see where you are. I think this more subtle embedding of location alongside messages between friends will be much more useful than a check in.

It’s also really clear that the launch of this app is a strategic move by Facebook to run head-to-head to BBM (and the soon to launch) iMessage network. One of the weaknesses of both of these networks is that they’re closed. You can’t exchange messages between non-Blackberry owning friends, and you won’t be able to send an iMessage to a friend who doesn’t have an iOS device.

Facebook’s Messages strategy sees it looking to merge email and IM into a single location, open to anyone regardless of the mobile platform they use. The Messenger app is a really tangible example of this, and a great alternative to some of the standalone messaging services currently available.