I was one of many folks whose smartphone was bombarded after installing the new Facebook Messenger app, a stand alone version of the Facebook messaging platform also included in the main Facebook application. To the dismay of many smartphone users including myself, my contacts on my phone in some cases were showing up in triplicate. For us geeks, nothing is more maddening that duplicate entries of anything, whether it be notifications, emails or contacts. I won't go on and on about this as many people already are on their blogs but it does bring up a couple questions and again unearths some more of the immature development practices still prevalent at Facebook. Here are a couple thoughts/questions I have for Facebook regarding their decision to break out one of their functions as a stand alone app: What is Facebook hoping to accomplish by doing this? The main Facebook application's value both personally and in business is the fact that everything Facebook is included in one app, requiring one download, using one icon when installed, based on one website. Other than some sort of deeper strategy unbeknownst to us social network lemmings, I can't for the life of me figure out why they are cluttering up their own offering and losing sight of the "keep it simple" philosophy that works for some of the biggest tech companies in the world.
What is REALLY going on? One thought had crossed my mind in that after Google+ was launched, with their ability to grow quickly because of their pre-existing ownership (I use that term loosely) of millions of email addresses and calendars, was Facebook looking to compete with Google in the email messaging space with a goal of turning Facebook Messenger into a default email platform? It wouldn't surprise me and would definitely play nice with their user base but who in their right mind wants to compete in an old communication landscape like email, especially when that space is already owned by the big three?
If you are going to infiltrate your customer's smartphone... During the installation, at least let the customer know what is going on. When I downloaded the Facebook Messenger app from the iTunes store, there was no obvious warning that magical things were being done with my contacts after I had installed it. If I saw a step in the process like a window popping up saying, "Thanks for using Facebook Messenger. We'd like to sync up your Facebook contacts with your iPhone. Is this ok with you?" I would've felt better about it. Secondly, if their application is going to do this, they need to design the process in a way that checks for duplicates and either prompts you to skip, keep, or replace the contact entry. Installing the application and then finding my contacts all duped without knowing what happened is pretty unnerving and is a well-known and repeatedly proven bad user experience.
Hopefully Facebook can start working on a more mature version of their own SDLC and user testing because if they don't, bad (and sometimes scary) installation experiences will negate the fact that their customer base is so huge, eventually rendering them the Walmart of social networks.
Other posts about Facebook Messenger you should check out