Could this be another small step towards the gradual unification of Facebook's various messaging platforms?
A Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat that:
“If you’re new to Messenger, you’ll notice that you need a Facebook account to chat with friends and close connections. We found that the vast majority of people who use Messenger already log in through Facebook and we want to simplify the process.”
Facebook first introduced the option to sign-up for Messenger without a Facebook account back in 2015, with the main aim being to enable people in regions where Facebook may not be as readily accessible - whether due to network limitations or government regulation - to still use its dedicated messaging app.
Evidently, it hasn't been a widely utilized option - and as Facebook notes, given than most Messenger users also have a connected Facebook account, the impact of the change won't be significant.
But why remove it? Why would Facebook look to take away an access point that could enable them to reach more users?
As noted, it's likely that the change is, in fact, part of The Social Network's broader shift towards an integrated messaging system, which will eventually enable users to cross-communicate between Instagram, Messenger and/or WhatsApp. That could provide significant benefits for Facebook, which has seen major increases in messaging activity - indeed, back in March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that:
"Private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest-growing areas of online communication."
An interconnected messaging system could help Facebook maximize its opportunities in this regard - while some have also suggested that by merging its back-end systems together in this way, it could also make Facebook harder to break up, if regulatory groups came to the conclusion that the company should be separated for the sake of industry competition.
If it's all one, big network, with messaging being a key part of its offering, then Facebook could argue that such a break-up would not be possible, forcing regulators to consider another path.
The removal of the option to sign up for Messenger without a Facebook account is a small step in this regard, but it works to further solidify and merge Facebook's various tools. By removing it as an option, Facebook ticks off another box in the broader shift towards messaging unification.