Facebook to require Messenger app for mobile chat

Users will no longer be able to send messages from Facebook's main mobile app

If you like to send messages via Facebook when you're on the move, get ready to download a new app.

Facebook confirmed Monday that it will be removing the messaging feature from its mobile app over the next few days, and requiring people to use its stand-alone Messenger app instead.

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The change follows through on a plan announced in April and for now affects Facebook's mobile app on iOS and Android. You'll be able to send and receive messages on the desktop as before.

"In the next few days, we're continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they'll need to download the Messenger app," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.

The company's goal is to make Messenger the best mobile service for messaging, she said, and avoid any confusion that might arise from having two mobile products for the same thing.

The move may also greatly increase the number of people who use Facebook Messenger.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company's earnings call last week that Facebook was looking to turn Messenger into an important business.

Messenger has more than 200 million monthly active users -- just under a fifth of Facebook's total user base. As well as sending text messages, it can handle Internet-based voice calls, group chat, and exchanging photos and short videos.

Facebook started the switch to Messenger a few months ago in a handful of countries, mostly in Europe, and the results have been positive, it said.

Still, it's unclear how the change will sit with people who've grown accustomed to using the main Facebook app for messaging. You'll still be notified in the Facebook app when you receive a message, but you'll have to open Messenger to view it and respond.

Facebook says the change will help improve the performance of both the apps over time. It's already working to improve Messenger; the company recently hired former PayPal president David Marcus as part of a push to build new capabilities for Messenger, possibly including payments.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced an agreement to acquire WhatsApp, which also handles Internet-based messaging.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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