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Facebook takes on BBM

What's the most popular app in Apple's App Store? No, it's not one of Apple's popular programs like GarageBand. It's Facebook. But the Facebook mobile app, good though it is, has been essentially the same for a long time now. It's overdue for an overhaul. And Facebook have announced an overhaul of sorts this week. But instead of updating their existing app, they've added another one.

What? you cry. Why would I want two Facebook apps? Well, it's not totally crazy. The new app, Messenger, is focused on just one thing - you guessed it, messages. The idea is that Facebook, combined with push notifications, should offer everyone constant availability to their friends. Traditionally, there was SMS for when you're out and about and IM for when you're at your computer. But in recent years, mobile IM systems - notably BlackBerry Messenger - have offered free, rich chat anywhere, and Facebook wants in on that action. It's also a pre-emptive strike against iMessage, Apple's own BBM competitor that's launching with iOS 5 soon.

So, what's it like? Well, it shows your messages, and lets you send messages to your friends, and, well, that's kind of it. The emphasis is less on new functionality than simplicity and ease of access - that's the reason, it seems, for a standalone app. But simple as it is, people certainly seem to like it. Within hours of its release, it's already the top free app in the App Store.

Sadly, though, we in the UK won't be joining in the fun just yet. It's US-only for now.

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