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Facebook Responds To Customer Backlash

Don't Shoot The Messenger

There’s been plenty of backlash against Facebook’s recent decision to split its messaging function off from the main site for mobile users; those wishing to check their Feed and message friends must now use two separate apps.

Plenty have objected to this on the grounds of convenience – for an organisation that wants to be the centre of your social life, it seems counter-intuitive to take up more space than necessary on your home screen.

Others have protested based on simple preference. Many preferred the more streamlined experience of the messaging function within the main site, rather than the fancy new version with stickers and emojis and whatever else the kids are using instead of real words these days.

There is a third contingent, a group of doom-mongers who are convinced that Mark Zuckerberg is building a replica of that machine from Batman which used everyone’s phones to build a giant spy network. It is this group to which Facebook has had to respond today.

Upon installing Facebook Messenger, the user is prompted to agree to a list of certain permissions: that the app can use your phone’s camera, microphone, contact list and so forth. What people believe is that by agreeing to this they are giving Facebook permission to turn on the mic remotely at any point and listen in to whatever (no doubt fascinating) conversations the user is having.

The real reason is that if somebody wants to take a picture to send to someone over Messenger, as people are wont to do, having this permission built in means that Facebook won’t have to ask you separately if they’re allowed to use your camera every time you try to do so. This is the same as with every messaging app, from WhatsApp to Viber to WeChat. Messaging isn’t just text any more, and this list of permissions is a simple recognition of this fact.

Nonetheless, the rumours have got so pervasive that yesterday Facebook Messenger Product Manager Peter Martinazzi felt obliged to make a blog post, accompanied by a friendly yeti, to lay out the myths and the facts surrounding the app. He also took the opportunity to explain why splitting the function into a separate app was necessary at all, providing the mildly interesting statistic that ‘people usually respond about 20% faster when they have Messenger’. He also said that he thought people will ‘find both apps useful in different ways,’ which is certainly true in the same way that people find postboxes and telephones useful in different ways. The full text can be read on the Facebook blog.

Whether it will placate the roaring masses who demand to know why Facebook wants to read their text messages remains to be seen, although there are certainly some people who are never really happy unless they’ve got some injustice to rail against. What is certainly true is that Facebook isn’t going to be backing down from pushing Messenger any time soon; Zuckerberg has repeatedly stated that he sees the future of the company as being messaging-based, and its purchase of WhatsApp and the attempted takeover of Snapchat certainly bear this out.

All the fuss is fairly moot, anyway. Despite boasting a one and a half star rating on the iTunes App Store, Facebook Messenger is the number one most downloaded app. It’s not like most of us have lives worth spying on anyway.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Facebook Responds To Customer Backlash Reviewed by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 02, 2014 Rating: 5
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