After first previewing the new Messenger layout at its F8 developer conference back in May, and after various reports of some users seeing it 'in the wild' last month, Facebook has now confirmed that all users will be able to access the new-look Messenger from this week.
Probably a slightly more aggressive soundtrack than I would have gone with on the video, but still, more interesting than the generic ukelele songs which usually accompany such announcements.
As explained by Facebook:
"In a recent Messenger study, 71% of people told us that simplicity is the top priority for them in a messaging app. Among people surveyed who are messaging more frequently, 62% say messaging makes them feel closer to their friends. We believe Messenger 4 delivers the closeness and authenticity that you’ve been asking for - through simplicity of design and powerful features that put the focus back on messaging and connecting."
Yes, they're calling is 'Messenger 4', which may be a take on how Apple names its iPhone iterations, maybe? Not sure.
Regardless, the new Messenger update aims to streamline the app's functions after it had become 'too cluttered' with new additions and tools that Facebook pushed in to try and expand Messenger's use case.
The most noticeable change is the bottom function bar, with Facebook switching it from five tabs to three, narrowing down the focus.
That may also put less emphasis on Messenger Stories, one of Facebook's less popular Stories variants - though Facebook does note that:
"For hundreds of millions of people every day who share pictures and videos, Messenger 4 will have visual communication features like Camera at the top so you can easily capture and share your selfies."
As you can see here, all the key elements are covered in each section, with the extra features like games moved into the new look Discover tab.
Facebook's also added a new 'color gradients' option, which enables people to use multiple colors to customize their chat bubbles in conversations.
"You can see the colors change from red to blue, for example, as you scroll up and down a conversation. Color gradients can be changed any time to reflect your mood or topic of conversation."
Essentially, all the key elements are there, just shifted around, with some new tricks added in. Early reports suggest that the new layout does take a moment to get used to, but that it does provide a better user experience.
The question, then, is 'what does that mean for Facebook's broader strategic plans for Messenger?'
While Messenger has more than 1.3 billion users, Facebook hasn't been able to monetize the app in the same way as they have Facebook proper, partly due to space limitations, and largely due to the intrusiveness of ads into what users consider a more personal, private forum. Facebook had hoped that Messenger bots would provide the key to unlocking the app's full revenue potential, but while there are now more than 300,000 active Facebook Messenger bots, most people don't use them.
And now, bots will be relegated a little deeper into the app. Again, as noted by Facebook, Messenger users want a simplified messaging experience, which doesn't immediately lend itself to expansive, adaptive ad options and tools.
Will this new format help or hinder Facebook's Messenger strategy? It seems that Facebook's taking the longer view now - that catering to users is more important than pumping in ads right away, with the exponential growth of the platform expanding its ad potential incrementally, as opposed to trying to maximize what they have right now.
Of course, Facebook no doubt has plans for this - even with a simplified platform, Facebook will have a strategy in place for how it's going to utilize the format to generate additional ad exposure over time.
But regardless, this does seem like a step in the right direction, catering to audience demand and providing a better looking, more directly functional Messenger experience.
And maybe, through increased usage, people might just start looking around the app a bit more, which will lead to greater revenue potential by improving the app, as opposed to capitalizing on attention wherever possible.