2 years ago, Facebook started pushing all users of its Android mobile app who regularly used it to chat with friends and family on the social networking platform, to Messenger, its chat app. A year ago, it did the same to those who had eschewed the mobile app for a mobile web experience for one reason or the other. The message was very clear: Facebook wanted all its users to use Messenger which, it said then, “provided a superior experience”.
Well, from the look of things these last few months, it is clear why Facebook wanted to do this. It has rolled out several features to the app like the Snapchat Stories copycat feature Messenger Day, voice calling, video chats, the ability to send and receive money and many others. It is also bringing in ads as it seeks to make money. In its 3-year journey, Messenger has, according to the latest numbers from Facebook, picked up 1.2 billion users who send 2 billion messages every month! Oh, and it’s a platform of its own that has been courting developers and users alike with its own bots (that are super useful and are my newly-found way of consuming news since Google Now is now dead).
However, while the Messenger application is all powerful, packs cool features and all, it is not for everyone. At 36 megabytes when you grab the application from the Play Store, it is not the lightest let alone being made with users in emerging markets in mind. From my own experience, the app easily balloons to over 250 megabytes as user data accumulates. That is not ideal in any way. It means a couple of things. For one to get the experience that Facebook believes they desire, they’ll have to use considerable amounts of data to download and install the app (36MB is a lot of data if you are on a 100MB per day data plan), use even more data to use the app and sacrifice valuable storage space to accommodate Messenger’s hunger for more room. Facebook knew this and they released Messenger Lite, a barebones version of the main Messenger app aimed at delivering the core features to users around the world.
Launched initially in a handful of countries, including Kenya, Messenger Lite’s availability was expanded to cover over 130 new countries in April. That move, coupled with the app’s novel focus, seems to be paying off as Android Police is reporting that the app’s install base has grown significantly. Downloads of the Messenger Lite application on the Google Play Store have now crossed the 50 million mark. A milestone, no doubt, even as we wait to hear from Facebook about how many of the 1.2 billion active Messenger users do so from Messenger Lite as its first anniversary approaches.
Given how long it took the lite version of Facebook’s main app to get to its most recent milestone, Messenger Lite having just been made accessible to many more users a few months ago, is well on course to replicating its sibling’s success.