New Facebook app targets mobile users

Being a big fish in the wired-up world is more like being a shark: you have to keep moving or die. Facebook, with its billion global users, might have been forgiven a little complacency. Instead its latest technology targets those stubborn holdouts who still don’t have a Facebook presence.

Facebook has made a significant tweak to its mobile messenger app to appeal to a new generation of mobile users who access the internet primarily (or solely) through their phones. As other corporations begin to realise that the old desktop and broadband connection model is being superseded by a new era of mobile networking, Facebook seem to have grabbed a head start.

With its billion users in the bag, Facebook isn’t slowing down. The company’s director of product, Sam Lessin, put it very simply when he explained the aims of the new app to CNET: "It's a really great way to get a bunch of people." Its instant messaging capabilities also chip away at the popularity of text messaging, which is beginning to decline.

The new messenger app has been developed initially for Android phones. The first territories where it will be available are Australia, Argentina, India, Indonesia. Venezuela, and South Africa, which are regions where Facebook has yet to achieve saturation coverage.

Part of the appeal will be that the app requires just a name and a phone number, so can be used easily throughout the developing world. A companion app called Facebook For Every Phone allows even a cheap and basic handset to take on some of the functions of a smartphone. The company estimates that this app alone will bring in another 750 million users.

Facebook’s app makes their network a convenient and cheap way of staying in touch, following the company’s practice of signing up as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Whether the developing world can resist their blandishments more stubbornly than the US and Europe remains to be seen

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