Why I'm Not Freaking Out Over Facebook's Messenger App (But I'm Not Downloading It, Either)
If you haven't noticed, Facebook has officially made it mandatory that people using its mobile app download a separate Messenger app in order to receive and respond to messeges on the social network. Yep. Two apps, one service.
There are at least two big issues that have people freaking out. First, the app permissions. Here are just a few permissions the app asks for when you download it on an Android device:
- Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.
- Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.
- Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you've called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals.
Wow, right? That is some seriously creepy stuff. How dare Facebook demand such access to my personal information as well as information about my contacts? They've really crossed the line this time.
If this sounds like you, please stop freaking out. There are reasonable explanations for the crazy language of the app permissions.
Related: Is Apple's App Store Broken?
"Allows the app to record audio with microphone." Uh oh, Facebook's going to record your phone calls without your knowledge. Um, no. This permission is necessary so people can send audio and video messages using the app. "Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention." Sounds like the app will be calling your contacts willy nilly. No, without this permission, you wouldn't be able to make phone calls directly from the app.
Get the picture? If anything, this proves that the generic app permissions language used by Google's Android is borderline alarmist. Facebook attempted to debunk some of the crazy, crazy app permissions in a recent explainer online.
The second issue as I see it is the bigger of the two. Why-oh-why would Facebook make people download a new, separate app to continue using features that were available on its regular mobile app?
The use of standalone messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Viber are increasingly popular around the world, although arguably less so in the U.S. Facebook wants to be people's go-to tool for sharing and communicating with their networks. "With Messenger, we want to empower people passionate about messaging with a fast and simple way to communicate with their friends," Facebook said back in March.
I get it. But requiring people to download yet another app on their phone or tablet is obnoxious. Especially since there is no overwhelmingly obvious reason to do so. Except now, since Facebook has turned off the messaging featuring in its regular mobile app. So, download it or forget messaging on mobile.
Like I said, obnoxious.
I, for one, won't be downloading Facebook Messenger -- based on principle. Don't force me to download another app in order to keep using the same old features.