It’s been a while since Facebook split its messaging feature into an independent service, but the separation wasn’t fully completed until now. Despite being an independent app that didn’t even bear the Facebook name, Messenger still required users to have a Facebook account in order to send messages. That changed today, at least for North American users, as having a Facebook account is no longer a prerequisite for using Messenger.
You no longer need Facebook to send Facebook messages. Starting Wednesday, users in North America can sign up for Facebook Messenger mobile app with just their cell phone number, said Messenger head David Marcus. The move comes after internal research showed some users wanted to use Messenger, but didn’t want to be on Facebook, Marcus said. “All of us have one or two friends who are not on Facebook and clearly they’re the minority at this point,” Marcus said. But, he added, “messaging is such a primary use case we didn’t want to make it a prerequisite to have a Facebook account.” Messenger, which boasts 700 million users, is one of a suite of mobile apps that CEO Mark Zuckerberg is keen to grow to one billion users or more. Others include a second messaging app, WhatsApp, and photo-sharing app Instagram. WhatsApp has 800 million users, making it and Messenger the world’s two most-used messaging apps, according to market-research firm GlobalWebIndex. It’s unclear how the messaging apps will make money, however.