Facebook’s standalone messenger app Messenger has crossed 1 billion monthly active users (MAUs), 6 months after it claimed to have crossed 900 million MAUs, and almost 5 years since initial launch in August 2011. Messenger now joins the 1 billion club, which earlier included Facebook owned messaging service WhatsApp, and Google owned YouTubeGmail and Google Maps. The only messenger service that is closely trailing the 1 billion mark is Chinese chat app WeChat that crossed 700 MAUs in April.

In December 2012, Facebook had revamped its Messenger platform and allowed users to sign-up for the service, even if they don’t have a Facebook account. This was at a time when the social networking giant itself had just crossed the 1 billion MAUs mark and was in talks with WhatsApp, to acquire it, while WhatsApp eventually refuted it. By that time, it was pretty clear that Facebook wanted a piece of the mobile-based chat platform revolution. Interestingly, the service was rolled out on Messenger for Android, first in India, Australia, Indonesia, Venezuela and South Africa in 2012, with other countries following after that.

However note that Facebook did not entirely build the app by itself: In March 2011, before Messenger came into being, Facebook acquired a ‘task-sharing’ app Beluga and on boarded its technology and the core team as well. Beluga allowed users to make to-do lists, notes, messages, and simply share it with a group of friends. By October 2011, Beluga shut down and lived on inside Facebook Messenger ever since.

Messenger developments:

Since removing Messenger from its original Facebook app in 2014 and prompting users to download Messenger as a standalone app, the messaging service added several updates to support this split up, which obviously had infuriated users. Following is a highlight of what Facebook had done to support their standalone logic, but more importantly these updates were also generally focusing on building Messenger as a platform that competes with other chat apps.

-Messenger for Publishers: This month, Facebook’s Instant Articles was made available on Messenger. The update will be available to Android devices first and on iOS in the coming weeks. This was at a time when Facebook mentioned that it was planning to open Messenger to publishers at F8 in April. The company said it would launch with a few participating publishers, although these were not named.

– Privacy on Messenger: In this month, Facebook enabled end-to-end encryption, secret conversations, timer setting for self-destructing or hiding messages, alerts for account breaches, etc. (More here). The stronger privacy updated was rolled out at a time when Multiple tech companies like Apple, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Snapchat, were reportedly working on privacy technology to further encrypt user data and information.

Opening up messenger to developers: Facebook had opened its Messenger Send/Receive API that supports bot development on its chat platform to all developers, during its F8 conference in April. The company had launched the API unannounced to let some developers build bots in Messenger for shopping, booking travel etc. The company said it will allow developers to create apps for Facebook’s Messenger. For a start it had launched around 40 new apps, for photos, videos, audio clips and GIFs among others during F8. The platform was made available to all developers on iOS and Android, in March.

Audio and Video Calls: Messenger had announced that it is rolling out audio group calling on mobile, both iOS and Android globally, in April. TechCrunch reported that a maximum of 50 people can be added to the call. Exactly a year before this, Facebook had added a video calling feature in its Messenger app. Video calls were made available to users from within chats, on the top right corner of the screen. Users can also place video calls cross platform, i.e call iOS users from Android and vice-versa.

More Messenger updates here.

Image Credits: Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns under CC BY 2.0