Facebook today announced Facebook Messenger version 1.5. This version adds a few new features and performance improvements as well as support for the BlackBerry platform. You can grab it now for Android on Google's Android Market, for the iPhone on Apple's App Store, and for BlackBerry on RIM's BlackBerry App World.
In terms of new features, the new version lets you see who's online and who's on mobile, shows you when the other person is typing, and offers a faster way to compose new messages to the people you message most. Facebook has also added support for 22 new languages for Android, 12 new languages for iPhone, and iOS 5 support for the iPhone.
Facebook released the first version of Facebook Messenger for Android and iPhone just two months ago. In short, it's a mobile app that lets you send and receive real-time messages with individual friends as well as small groups of friends, send photos, and privately share your location.
If your friend has the app, messages are delivered to him or her via push notifications (you can choose to mute all conversations or specific ones temporarily or indefinitely). If he or she doesn't, they are delivered via SMS, Facebook Chat, or Facebook Messages. You can thus use it to reach all of your friends – whether they're on Facebook or in your phone's contact list. All you have to do is type the person's name and the message.
After you install it, Facebook Messenger imports all your existing Facebook inbox conversations. You can then start a conversation by adding one of more of your Facebook friends or phone numbers from your phone's contacts. If someone is both a Facebook friend and a contact on your phone, you can choose where to deliver the conversation's messages. Whether you access Facebook online or on your phone, you can see the full history of all your messages.
Facebook Messenger also lets you quickly start a group conversation and message multiple people at once. If you choose to share your location (this information is kept private within a conversation), the people you're messaging with can easily find each other on a map with pushpins corresponding to their locations. There's even an option to get directions to your friends from Google Maps or Bing Maps.
If you try to add more people to a one-on-one conversation, the message history is cleared (a good move given Facebook's poor privacy history). If you add additional participants to an existing group conversation, you are warned that these new people will be able see the conversation's history. You can also attach photos, and your friends can see and comment on them. You can optionally add a title and a photo to a given conversation.
If you haven't figured it out yet, Messenger is a separate app from the standalone Facebook app. This is the first standalone app from the social networking giant, although there are whispers that the company may merge it back eventually with the main Facebook app. This would only be easy on Android and iPhone, however, as Facebook develops mobile apps for those two platforms. Everyone else develops the Facebook app for their respective platform (Microsoft for Windows Phone, HP for webOS, RIM for BlackBerry, and so on).