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[August 26, 2014]
Chicago Tribune Scott Kleinberg column [Chicago Tribune :: ]
(Chicago Tribune (IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 27--Facebook announced a few weeks ago that it's going to force mobile users to download its separate Messenger app in order to keep chatting with friends.
It's rolling out slowly. Soon, there will be no button marked chat. Now, you can press that and switch seamlessly between apps.
Love it or hate it, it's happening. And yes, it's yet another example of Facebook not listening to the collective voice. If Facebook was listening, it would know users don't like single apps split into two or three. Facebook isn't the only company to do this, but with north of 1 billion users it's definitely the highest-profile one.
If I had a dollar for every Facebook friend who threatened to find another method of chatting over the decision, I'd have enough money to buy a new iPhone. Sadly, no dollars, but I do have a headache.
I'm here to tell you that Facebook's plans really aren't that bad. I'm also here to tell you that not everything you've read is true. So let's break it down and make sure you're ready to chat when the change is final.
Facebook's Messenger app is really quite nice. In the latest version, you can send photos, video, impressive emoticons and audio. Perhaps most impressive is you can call your Facebook friends over the app. You'll need to watch your usage though: Normal data rates apply. Remember: Wi-Fi is your friend.
To use Messenger, you do not have to agree to fine print that violates your privacy. Stories making the rounds indicate this app asks for permissions that are beyond normal, permissions that include needing access to your phone's camera or the ability to use your phone's microphone. It looks sinister out of context, but the access to the camera would be to allow you send photos to your friends and access to the microphone allows you to make a phone call.
You could switch to mailing letters to avoid the app, but Facebook still knows a lot about you. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but whatever the fine print doesn't say, there's still a lot to read and understand. Regardless of whether you're surfing at Facebook.com or using the Messenger app or any other Facebook product, when you're logged in Facebook is collecting data. Lots of data. About you, your friends, your family and whatever else you tell it.
It's not difficult to manage multiple apps for one purpose. As someone who led the revolution against such ridiculousness at one point not too long ago, I can tell you that I've changed my ways. Think about the amount of programming and code required to make Facebook's Messaging app as robust as it is. Now think of that code as part of the original app. That's only going to slow down Facebook. And maybe you don't use Facebook all that often for chat and prefer an alternative such as texting or IM or another app. In reality, it's a win-win.
Soon, you'll be faced with a decision. Facebook for Facebooking, Messaging for chatting. I can't make the decision for you, but I hope that if you're chatting with me now you'll be chatting with me later. I have seen the light, and it's not that bad.
What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg with hashtag #SoSocial. He might select yours for use in a future column.
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