In the face of rising hostility towards Facebook’s policy of forcing users to install its Messenger app separately if they want to go on accessing their friends’ messages on their smartphones, the app has still managed to break the 500 million download threshold.
Facebook Messenger has officially become the latest app to exceed the 500m download mark. The others are chiefly Google’s own apps (YouTube and Gmail), or Facebook’s: its primary app, WhatsApp (acquired by the social network earlier this year) and now Messenger.
But what makes the app’s success surprising is the fact that Facebook itself began to wince visibly at the backlash its controversial separate-install policy had generated, issuing an explanation to narked users about why the app requires so many permissions to access most of their Android device’s features, data and connectivity. Quite apart from being something of a dull pain in the derriere (over 30 permissions are asked for), the process of course grants the app (and therefore Facebook) access to rather a lot of personal user data, raising privacy worries.
But Facebook claims it had little choice if the app was to run properly. Android decides how the permissions are named and all apps require at least some of them in order to function. On its website under the Desktop Help: Messenger section, Facebook claims it needs so many of them to run a slew of in-app social features, like, for example, allowing users to take pictures and share the fruits of their impromptu video production, record voice messages and make free voice calls, receive SMS messages, and add phone contacts as Messenger contacts, which the social network argues makes for a more integrated social experience.
Perhaps the slightly coercive approach could have been handled a little more adroitly; you don’t need to be a PR guru to understand that people rarely appreciate a dictatorial tone in the messages they receive. But despite the tide of anger, users haven’t voted with their download fingers.