April 10, 2014 - 14:23 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Facebook will remove chat from its iPhone and Android app, forcing users to download its separate Messenger app if they want to continue sending and receiving private messages, the Guardian reports.
The social network began notifying users in the UK, France and other European countries on Wednesday that they will need to install the company's standalone Messenger app in order to continue using Facebook chat on their smartphones in the next two weeks.
"We have built a fast and reliable messaging experience through Messenger and now it makes sense for us to focus all our energy and resources on that experience," the company said in a statement.
Facebook plans to eventually require that users in all countries install the Messenger app, spokesman Derick Mains said, though he could not provide a specific timeframe for the change.
The free, standalone Messenger app is faster than the messaging service that is, for now, built into the main Facebook's mobile app. Facebook users can also access more features in the Messenger app, such as the ability to make voice phone calls over Wi-Fi in some countries and send text messages on Android.
Facebook faces increasing competition from a new crop of fast-growing mobile messaging apps, such as Line and WeChat as well as established brands such as BlackBerry's BBM and Google Hangouts.
The social network acquired one of its biggest messaging competitors, WhatsApp, for $19bn in February, which then announced it would be adding voice calling to its service later that month at Mobile World Congress.
Facebook's move to encourage users to install a separate messaging app on their phones could help boost the popularity of Facebook Messenger, but could also cause a backlash if consumers view the action as heavy-handed. It will also directly compete with WhatsApp.
Facebook has increasingly moved into the mobile space, seeing it as a way to continue expanding its 1.2 billion-strong user base. It has developed or acquired a catalogue of standalone apps in addition to its main app over the past few years.
In January, Facebook launched Paper, a photo-heavy news-reading app that has earned positive reviews. Facebook also acquired photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012, which recently reached 200 million users.