Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Facebook Messenger is getting faster, lighter and more secure in 2019

Facebook Messenger is getting faster, lighter and more secure in 2019

Facebook Messenger to Get Faster iOS App, New Desktop Apps for Windows and macOS, and More

Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, and other leaders at the company took the stage at the F8 developer conference today to talk about where the platform is headed.

 A desktop Messenger app is in the works, but we’ve now learned details of what the company has in store for the mobile messaging app which is getting rebuilt for speed and small memory footprint.

We also got a look at the major new Facebook design headed for iOS and desktop that brings a brand new UI and logo, as well as a glimpse at new features and changes for Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

 Amongst the announcements, Messenger was said to receive a new version for iOS later this year that will rebuilt from the ground up to be faster and lighter.

 A new desktop app for Windows and macOS was also announced. Other new Messenger features include a way to discover and watch videos together, end-to-end encryption, a dedicated space for close friends, and finally, new ways businesses can connect with consumers.

Zuckerburg kicked off the F8 keynote and reiterated the company’s new goals of safety, privacy, encryption, and interoperability that he shared last month. He stated again that the company believes the “future is private.”

He told the F8 audience that Messenger would take the lead among Facebook’s products to make changes in the direction of those new principles and also have the goal of being the fastest messaging service.

Starting with the faster, lighter Facebook Messenger app, the company said it is using LightSpeed to achieve its aim of making Messenger for iOS the “fastest private communication app on the entire planet.” 

The new app will be more reliable, use less battery, the company claimed, as well as less storage. On this last front, Facebook said early tests showed it could reduce the size of the app from around 127MB to less than 30MB. In terms of speed, testing for the new app has shown cold start times of less than 1.3 seconds. 

The re-engineered app will be available later this year, and the company did not announce plans for a similar version on Android which already has Facebook Lite.

Zuckerburg confirmed the previously leaked news that Messenger will be making its way to both Mac and Windows and we got a glimpse of the app in dark mode on macOS. We didn’t get a firm release date for Messenger for desktop besides the app arriving this fall

The presentation also highlighted that more than 2 billion people will be messaging privately with end-to-end encryption when the update comes to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

 Messenger will get more ways to have ephemeral content. Carrying forward the aim for a unified messaging platform between Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, Facebook also said Messenger will in the future gain the ability to call and message users on Instagram and WhatsApp – not just Facebook.

As for interoperability, Zuckerburg showed off a new “Friends” tab that will be coming to Messenger where users will be able to see content from people they follow from Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The interface features a tiled card design and won’t include content from businesses or public figures.

Facebook Messenger will also get a dedicated place for users' “closest connections”, and this will find its place on the second tab in the Messenger app. 

This tab will is where users can discover Stories and messages from their closest friends and family, share snippets of their own day, and also choose exactly who sees what they post. This new feature will also roll out later this year.

Separately, the Watch Party feature Facebook had introduced on its main service last year will soon find its way to Messenger, letting friends discover and watch videos together. The feature is currently being tested, and will roll out globally later this year.

Another private communication focused update that will be coming to Messenger will be a “Watch Together” feature which sounds similar to other third-party apps we’ve seen previously that encourages remotely connecting with friends to watch videos.

Messenger will also get a desktop app on Windows and macOS platforms, and it will get all the features the mobile app has, including audio calls, group video calls, and more. 

The dedicated app will also allow users to “collaborate on projects or multi-task while chatting in Messenger.” Once again, the desktop apps are being tested, and will be rolled out later this year.

Finally, Facebook also said it is making it easier for businesses to connect with potential customers by adding lead generation templates to Ads Manager, where businesses will be able to create a Q&A experience in Messenger to learn more about them. 

It will also become easier to book an appointment with businesses, thanks to a new “appointment experience”.

Another highlight from the keynote was the unveiling of the next major Facebook iteration, FB5. The design will be much lighter, losing most of the blue theme on both mobile and desktop. It should also be easier to navigate and will feature a redesigned top tab bar.

FB5 will also come with an update to the Facebook logo, which has been a square with rounded corners for some time now. The new logo will be circular and looks to be dynamic depending on context as well.

A faster and lighter Messenger

Concretely, the team is cutting the size of the installed app from about a hundred megabytes down to less than thirty megabytes (the iOS installer is currently a circa 247-megabyte download, depending on your specific iOS device model).

 The goal for the optimized app, developed under the code-name Project LightSpeed: launch in less than two seconds because “people expect their messaging apps to be fast and reliable.”

Facebook Messenger has undergone a lot of changes in the past few months. With Messenger 4, for example, it did away with clutter by going from nine tabs to four, and simplified the interface so it was easier to send a photo and start a video call. It also introduced dark mode, threaded replies, and a ten-minute unsend window.

 At F8 2019, Facebook's annual developer conference, the company announced there would be even more changes coming to Messenger in 2019. New features include a more lightweight app, a dedicated area for close friends and family, a "watch party" feature, a desktop app, and end-to-end encryption.

The social network has reiterated its commitment to make Messenger end-to-end encrypted by default, like Apple’s iMessage. When the update hits Messenger and WhatsApp, Facebook said, more than two billion of its customers will be using encrypted messaging.

A new way to watch videos together

Aside from a faster, lighter app, Messenger is getting two new major features—a new way to watch videos together with other people and better ways to connect with close friends.
A new way to watch videos together

You’ll be able to quickly share a video from the Facebook app on Messenger and invite others to watch together, in real time, even while messaging or on a video chat. The feature is currently in testing and should launch globally later this year.

Video is another area of growth for Facebook. According to the company, around 410 million people use video chat on Messenger each month, and around two billion minutes per day is spent watching video on Facebook.

 So it makes sense that Facebook would attempt to merge the two by introducing a "watch party" style feature on Messenger, which was hinted at last year in an internal test. This would let you and your friends discover and watch videos on Facebook at the same time, which can be done either in a group text, or a group video chat

In addition to collaborative video watching, the Messenger app is gaining better ways to help you connect with your closest friends, as detailed further below.

An appointment experience

But that’s not all. In addition to the aforementioned user-facing feature additions, the social network behemoth has unveiled some interesting capabilities that will appeal to small businesses who use Messenger as a point of contact with clients.

Along with regular consumers, Facebook Messenger has a lot of business users too. According to the company, there are over 40 million active businesses on Messenger, many of which use it to communicate with their customers.

 One upcoming new feature for businesses on Messenger is an appointment booking system that'll hook into the business' internal calendar, so that customers can easily schedule, change or cancel their appointments.

And to make it easier to book an appointment with businesses like car dealerships, hair stylists, beauty salons, cleaning services and the like, the Messenger team has created an appointment experience, as depicted right above.

Connecting with close friends

Another new feature is a dedicated area in the Messenger app for close friends and family, which will contain everything from Stories to private images and videos that you share with each other. 

It's unclear what this will look like just yet, but this sounds a little similar to the Close Friends feature that already exists on the main Facebook app as well as on Instagram Stories.

Messenger fans will be getting a dedicated virtual lounge within the app to server as a private sharing space for content such as images, videos, Stories and what not. According to the keynote, content from people you follow on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will appear within Messenger’s new Friends tab (excluding content from brands and public figures).

“You’ll also be able to share snippets from your own day and can choose exactly who sees what you post,” says the firm. This feature will also launch later this year.
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