Facebook is launching Messenger apps for Windows and MacOS globally from today, nearly a year after the social networking giant first announced plans to bring dedicated apps to the desktop.
At its annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, California last April, Facebook detailed a number of major updates it was working on for Messenger, including a new lightweight app for iOS dubbed “project lightspeed” that finally launched to the public last month. Facebook also teased new native desktop apps, and over the past month Messenger for Mac has been spotted in the wild in a few markets around the world. But today the worldwide rollout kicks into high gear.
A Facebook Messenger app has been available for Windows users for a while, though it has largely been neglected, and a web version has been around for several years. But the new incarnation has been rebuilt from the ground up.
With the new Messenger desktop app, users can make video calls on much larger screens, which will certainly improve one-to-one communications. However, the bigger benefit will likely be for group video calls, as multiple friends can look cluttered on a smaller smartphone screen.
Messenger for desktop is also designed for different scenarios — someone is more likely to be doing multiple things while at their PC, and the app allows users to push the window to the side to check other tabs or windows temporarily while keeping their conversation going.
The app isn’t purely about video chats, of course. Those who use it as their primary messaging service can see notifications for new messages, with everything synchronized across all devices they use Messenger on.
In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, Facebook reported a 70% surge in people participating in Messenger group video calls, while the amount of time spent on those group video calls doubled — and these numbers have been rising sharply.
“Now more than ever, people are using technology to stay in touch with the people they care about, even when physically apart,” wrote Messenger VP Stan Chudnovsky in a blog post. “Over the past month, we saw more than a 100% increase in people using their desktop browser for audio and video calling on Messenger.”