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April 7, 2017updated 27 Oct 2023 9:13am

What is Facebook Messenger?

What is Facebook Messenger? As one of the largest instant messaging platforms in the world its important to know how exactly it works.

By Joe Clark

Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging app released by Facebook, separate to the core Facebook experience. The application allows users to engage in instant messaging, sending either text, images, or videos, with any other member of the social network.

The app was launched in 2011 following Facebook’s acquisition of group massaging app Beluga and is currently available on a wide range of smartphones and tablets. If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet then the application is also available on desktop as part of the Facebook site as well as a dedicated messenger app on FireFox.

Facebook Messenger is available to all users but even those who are not registered to the service can use it. When a new user without a Facebook account downloads and opens the application they will be met with a standard login prompt or they can simply enter their name and phone number to operate the service that way.


Large groups of people are still sceptical of Facebook and the launch of a messaging app not completely tied to the core service was one way in which the social media giant could compete with rivals such as Kik and Whatsapp. These other applications also allow users to operate the services with just their phone number and name.

How do you customise Facebook alerts?

Alongside text and image chat the app has made continual improvements over the last 6 years and continues to add new features. Currently the service also offers voice calls, video calls, Giphy support allowing users to send Gifs from a large database, and recently Facebook have introduced a new ‘story’ feature designed to mimic a similar service from Snapchat. Stories allow users to post several photos in sequence which will disappear after a certain amount of time.

The actual messaging service works by showing you a list of online friends and allows you to pick one or multiple to start a conversation, though you can also send messages to those who are offline.

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Facebook alerts can also be customised so that users do not have to suffer the annoying bombardment of pings every single time they receive a message. The app can be tailored to send notifications only when messages are received from certain people, or if the group chat is overloading with notifications, alerts can be either be permanently or temporarily muted.

The messaging service also utilises read receipts which can indicate whether the message you have sent is waiting to send, failed to send, has successfully been sent, or if it has been read and at precisely what time it was read.

Currently Facebook is also experimenting with the possibilities of chatbots and several businesses are already using them in the place of customer service employees. Chatbots are programmes which are capable of holding limited conversations with prospective customers in order to streamline the customer service process. The company is also expected to unveil the next line of these chatbots at its year F8 developer conference in late April.

As of July 2016 Facebook Messenger had over 1 billion active users.

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