Facebook appears to be considering putting Messenger back in its main app

Drew Angerer/StaffFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Facebook is thinking about re-adding Messenger to its core app.
  • The company split it out years ago, forcing users to download an additional app to message their friends.
  • A researcher digging through Facebook’s code has found suggestions that it is now considering bringing it back into the fold.

Facebook appears to be considering re-adding Messenger to its core app, years after removing it and spinning it out into a separate app.

Jane Manchun Wong, a tech researcher who digs into popular apps’ code to find unannounced features and internal tests, posted on Twitter on Thursday screenshots that show the Silicon Valley tech giant is exploring the idea of putting Messenger back inside Facebook itself on smartphones.

The potential move comes as Facebook is embarking on an ambitious project to more tightly integrate its messaging services – Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram direct messages – with encrypted messaging; a move that Facebook says is supposed to promote privacy, but that has been interpreted by critics as an attempt to fend off the rising threat of anti-trust action over the company’s dominance.

The rationale behind the Messenger reintegration isn’t immediately clear. Reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider: “We are testing ways to improve the messaging experience for people within the Facebook app. Messenger remains a feature-rich, stand-alone messaging app with over a billion people using it monthly to connect with the people and businesses they care about most. We do not have any additional details to share at this time.”

That the company is experimenting in this way doesn’t necessarily guarantee that this change will ultimately make its way into ordinary users’ apps – but product updates are frequently leaked this way before they’re officially announced.

It seems unlikely that the move would spell the end of the Messenger app entirely. Spinning the message service into its own app back in 2011 helped it grow markedly, and many users have notifications on the core Facebook app switched off; forcing Messenger messages to only route through it again would mean messages would go unread, and engagement would likely decline.

But the change would help to bolster the company’s argument that Messenger is a core part of the Facebook experience, strengthening the argument that it couldn’t be forced by regulators to spin it off into a separately run company. That’s an important point, as politicians like Elizabeth Warren call for increased scrutiny over potential monopolistic practices at tech giants including Facebook.

And it would likely be a crowd-pleasing move: Many users were frustrated by having to download an additional app from Facebook when it was made mandatory in 2014.

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