Facebook today launched Facebook Messenger on the web. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is: While Messenger is already available on the company’s main facebook.com website as Facebook Chat, the company is now offering a standalone app over at messenger.com.
In other words, Facebook wants a standalone Facebook Messenger browser experience (with desktop notifications) that is completely separate from the rest of the social network. Like the mobile version, the web app is meant to provide a way to chat with other Facebook users without the distractions of unrelated notifications, the News Feed, Timelines, Pages, photos, videos, and so on.
“Today, we’re launching Messenger for web browsers — a standalone web chat product accessible via Messenger.com,” Facebook told VentureBeat. “Once logged in, people can dive directly into a dedicated desktop messaging experience, keeping their conversations going and picking up where they left off.”
The decision makes a lot of sense if you consider the company’s debut of the Facebook Messenger platform during its F8 developer conference last month. Facebook wants to turn Messenger into its own ecosystem, and that means it needs a proper app on all major platforms.
While messenger.com is still very much a webpage aimed to show off and explain the Messenger platform, there’s a clean login page at messenger.com/login that you can bookmark if you prefer. It’s easy to see how Facebook could one day redirect facebook.com users there whenever they tried accessing Facebook Chat.
In July 2014, Facebook forced its users to download Facebook Messenger if they wanted to continue messaging each other on their mobile devices. While the Facebook mobile app no longer has any messaging features (it simply opens the Facebook Messenger app instead), the company tells VentureBeat it has no current plans to rip out Facebook Chat completely from facebook.com.
Yet without such a redirect, we suspect Facebook will have a tough time getting Facebook users to head to messenger.com. It’s certainly a great domain to own, but most users are already used to launching Facebook’s main site, and if they really want to avoid all the clutter, they can just pick up their phone and open the Messenger app. The mobile apps are also more feature-filled, though Facebook is likely to close the gap over the next few months.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has experimented with desktop apps: The company launched a standalone Messenger app for Windows in March 2012 and a Messenger app for Firefox in December 2012. Both were discontinued in March 2014.
A web app that works across browsers on Windows, Mac, and Linux certainly makes more sense. Still, while the Facebook Messenger platform has a lot of potential, it also has a lot to prove, both on mobile and the web.