Facebook Messenger just got (optionally) darker. Pitch black, in fact. That’s because today Facebook added a toggle to the messaging app’s settings menu that enables a dark theme. Messenger had it previously (as of March), but it was hidden behind an Easter Egg that involved sending a crescent moon emoji in any one-on-one or group chat. That workaround is no longer necessary.
The feature is rolling out globally this morning to the 1.3 billion people who use Messenger.
“[W]e are excited to announce that everyone around the world will be able to activate dark mode in Messenger with a simple toggle switch from settings,” Messenger product manager Bridget Pujals wrote in a blog post. “Dark mode cuts down the glare from your phone for use in low light situations, so you can use the Messenger features you love no matter when or where you are.”
So how does one go about enabling Messenger’s dark mode? Try tapping on your profile photo — that’ll bring you to the relevant settings menu, where you’ll see a switch next to the option self-explanatorily named Dark Mode. Toggling it swaps the app’s traditionally bright color palette out for a low-contrast alternative: Basically, the background becomes black and text white.
Besides being a bit easier on the eyes, Messenger’s new dark theme should slightly extend the battery life of phones with OLED screens, like Apple’s latest-gen iPhone lineup (iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max), Samsung’s Galaxy series, and the LG G8 and V40. That’s because these screens can turn each individual pixel on and off without affecting the pixels directly adjacent, saving power.
Facebook Messenger joins a growing dark theme club filled with popular apps like Slack, Google Chrome, YouTube, Twitter, Google’s Gboard keyboard, Google News, Google Maps, and Signal, among others. In related news, Google has been testing a systemwide dark mode in the latest version of Android, Android Q, and Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Apple will follow suit with a dark theme in iOS 13.
The launch of Messenger’s dark theme follows the rollout of threaded messaging, as well as an unsend feature that gives users the ability to remove a message from a one-on-one or group chat for up to 10 minutes after it has been sent.
It also comes after a year in which Facebook recommitted to “streamlining” and “simplifying” the Messenger experience. In a blog post published last January, former Messenger chief David Marcus conceded that the service had become cluttered with new — albeit in some cases welcome — features, like chat extensions and expanded peer-to-peer payments.
Facebook intends to eventually unify the infrastructure underlying its family of messaging services — Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct — with end-to-end encryption, according to the New York Times. (Currently, only WhatsApp has end-to-encryption enabled by default, although the feature can be switched on manually in Messenger.) Reportedly, users will still be able to download each app separately after the migration is complete, but WhatsApp users will be able to send messages to friends who have Facebook or Instagram, for instance, even if those friends don’t have WhatsApp.
“Over the last two years, we built a lot of capabilities to find the features that continue to set us apart. A lot of them have found their product market fit; some haven’t,” Marcus wrote early last year. “While we raced to build these new features, the app became too cluttered. Expect to see us invest in massively simplifying and streamlining Messenger this year.”
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