facebook-messengerThe Verge reports that Facebook intends to remove the chat feature from its mobile app some time in the near future so it can focus on building Messenger, its standalone messaging app, .

The removal might help Facebook convince its users that its dedicated applications are worth downloading even if they already have the primary app installed. It could also help Messenger seem like a viable competitor to other messaging apps — there’s bound to be some people who would download Messenger if the main Facebook app didn’t have its own messaging feature.

Making its individual apps more popular might also help Facebook show consumers that it isn’t an app so much as it’s an ecosystem of services that can offer an enjoyable experience to anyone wishing to message their friends (via Messenger), share their photos (via Instagram), or read the news they care about (via Paper). It’s hard to sell that idea when the main Facebook app does everything its blue brethren are doing.

Indeed, Facebook tells Mashable that consumers in other countries actually prefer using Messenger because it receives messages about 20 percent faster than the main app, and that the app has seen a 70 percent increase in usage since the latest version was launched last year. While some users are likely to be upset about the change, Facebook cites some hard evidence to show that Messenger really does offer a better messaging experience than the main app.

Facebook has become a social monolith where everything people want to do with their friends can be done, but that doesn’t mean that one mobile app should have to host all those features. Removing messages from the main Facebook app, and allowing Messenger to show that using a variety of apps can be less frustrating than relying on just one app, supports that idea.

Reactions from around the Web

The Verge notes that many consumers might be irritated by the change when it’s first announced — but that it could be a welcome change in the long-term:

Chatting in Messenger is a far better experience than in Facebook’s main app, but some users might be disappointed by the fact that they now need two Facebook apps instead of one. In an age where home screen real estate value is at its peak, finding a place for one more app could be annoying. But, as Facebook divorces Messenger from its primary experience, it will likely be able to add many more features, like free calling, which the company recently rolled out to Messenger. It might also mean that Facebook will shrink the size of its main app, making it work faster and at the very least clearing up a few MB’s on your device. ‘Once the while process is complete, we expect the core apps to be faster,’ said the spokesperson.

TechCrunch is a bit more upset about the change:

Still, a unilateral forced migration is the exact kind of change Facebook users hate, and this will only breed more paranoia that their social network could change without their consent. Taking a slower “We’re switching everyone eventually, so you might as well do it now” approach might have gone over better than “Your familiar chat interface will be destroyed in two weeks whether you like it or not”.Still, a unilateral forced migration is the exact kind of change Facebook users hate, and this will only breed more paranoia that their social network could change without their consent. Taking a slower ‘We’re switching everyone eventually, so you might as well do it now’ approach might have gone over better than ‘Your familiar chat interface will be destroyed in two weeks whether you like it or not’.

Pando weighs in

Pando alum Hamish McKenzie dubbed Messenger the “new Facebook” in 2013:

A year ago, Facebook’s main app was the most downloaded social networking app in the world for iOS. Today, it’s Facebook Messenger.

Social networking apps in general are growing dramatically on both iOS and Android, in the US, and especially in the rest of the world.

He then wrote about Messenger’s importance to Facebook Home, the Android launcher the company launched last year to insert itself into its users’ smartphones, a month later:

In fact, if Home is any indication of Facebook’s future – and I would wager it is a major one – it would suggest that the social network has reorganized its priorities so that mobile chat is at the top of the pyramid, with status updates and photo uploads coming in close behind.

In Home – essentially a new interface for Android devices that places the social network at the center of the user experience – Facebook has literally backgrounded its once-paramount newsfeed, turning your friends photos and status updates into ever-shifting wallpapers. Meanwhile, Messenger is given top billing in the “action” part of the homescreen, along with a link to all other apps on the OS. (Tellingly, to get Home you have to have the latest version of Messenger.) If you happen to be in the middle of a conversation with someone, Messenger has an even more prominent presence, taking over a small portion of your screen in the form of a “Chat Head,” even if you’re in a completely different app and the conversation is on hold. As a result, Facebook Messenger is essentially “always on” in the new experience, supplanting not only native SMS messages but potentially also a large chunk of email.

But I questioned how Facebook could “own” messaging when it nixed its email service earlier this year:

It’s easy to dismiss email as a relic of a time when people didn’t communicate through social networks, text messages, or instant messaging tools. People are favoring services that allow them to communicate without having to worry about subject lines or hard-to-remember email addresses. Facebook now owns one of the services to which those people were flocking, operates another as part of its own platform, and plans to break into voice calling, too.

But email services aren’t nearly as endangered as some might think. If they were, Gmail’s Promotions tab wouldn’t frighten so many retailers; businesses would be using mobile messaging platforms for their corporate communications; and Facebook wouldn’t ask potential users to provide their email addresses when they sign up. Email is far from dead.