Bad news for those of you who use the Messenger feature of the Facebook app on your phones and tablets. Facebook is making you download a standalone Facebook Messenger app. I told you this move was coming a few weeks ago, but the moment is finally here.
Facebook is marketing the new Messenger app as “free texting from Facebook” and the app does look a lot like basic text messaging with some added features. You can message any of your Facebook friends using a Wi-Fi connection or your data plan.
It lets you organize your friends into groups and include fun little stickers in your messages. Your new messages will even pop up on your screen when you’re using other apps, so you don’t miss anything important posted on Facebook.
The app also lets you send picture and video messages, similar to other mobile messaging services. One of the coolest new features is its calling capabilities, which lets you actually call your Facebook friends all over the world for free using your Wi-Fi connection. That’s really handy if you are overseas.
OK, those features don’t sound so bad – and might even be worth having to download another app – but there are some concerns from users over the permissions you have to give the app to use it. I’ll break down those permissions here, so you can decide if the app is still right for you.
To use the app, you have to give it permission to take pictures and videos, record audio, directly call phone numbers, receive text messages and read your contacts. That’s a lot of permissions, so I’ll run down why it needs each one.
Take pictures and video
This is straight-forward. It allows you to take photos and videos within Facebook Messenger to send to your friends just like other messaging services.
Receive text messages
This lets you receive text messages. No problem here.
This permission might sound scary on the surface – what is Facebook recording? – but it is actually necessary if you want to make calls or send videos with the app. Messenger is a third-party app so it needs this permission before it can record anything you do to share with Facebook friends.
Directly call phone numbers
The app needs this permission for the calling feature to work. This permission allows you to call a Messenger contact by tapping on the person’s phone number.
The contacts permission lets you add contacts from your phone to your Facebook Messenger app, but you can always choose not to sync contacts in the Messenger’s settings.
It’s always good to take a second look at the permissions before you give an app access to your phone, but I think these are straightforward.
Apple users who don’t like them can turn off certain permissions individually. Android users don’t have the same option and have to accept them all to use the app.
If you really don’t like these permissions and want to avoid the Facebook Messenger app altogether, you can always visit Facebook through your gadget’s web browser and look at your messages there.
There are also plenty of alternative messaging and free-calling apps like Skype, Viber, TextFree and others.
Reminder: If you prefer to use Facebook from your Internet browser on your computer, don’t worry – nothing has changed there. Just make sure your have these essential privacy settings correct.