Facebook Messenger finally gets desktop applications almost 9 years after its debut. After seeing a more than 100% increase in audio and video calls from the desktop browser, Messenger is launching its Mac and Windows desktop applications today. They provide the same functionality as the browser version, but make keeping your threads on hand easier than having Messenger buried in one of the many tabs. “We are all looking for more ways to be together, even if we are physically separated,” writes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook originally announced Messenger desktop apps at its F8 conference a year ago. But given that the conference was canceled due to coronavirus this year and that users clearly wanted desktop applications now, it made sense to launch them without a big press event. Last month, the Mac version was spotted during tests. Messenger briefly had a Windows application in 2011 before being scrapped so far.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of Facebook Messenger right now is that it can only handle up to 8 participants in group video calls, up from 100 or even 500 with Zoom . This means that Messenger cannot support some of the new use cases that have arisen since people started sheltering there due to COVID-19. It also doesn’t offer a way to easily share a URL that allows other people to join a call, so it’s not useful for public webinars or social events.
Screen sharing is the other major missing feature. The inability to show what you are looking at prevents certain professional use cases, as well as telephone social networks like co-browsing in a photo album. Facebook’s Workplace chat desktop apps offer screen sharing, so it seems reasonable that Messenger can add this option in the future.
Chat apps have grown from being a way to stay in touch while being separate or hosting a meeting until our only form of human connection for people on lock-up. This means that they can no longer be built to complement our offline lives. They must transmit us fully.