An Associated Press reporter holds a
mobile phone showing the Facebook
Messenger app icon in San Francisco,
Wednesday, July 27, 2016. Facebook is
pushing more people to install its
Messenger application, now by blocking
people who want to send and receive
messages via its mobile website instead
of the app. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
You’d be wrong to think that Facebook’s
Messenger app is all about messaging.
Although people typically install it on their
phones to chat privately with their
Facebook friends, Facebook also uses
Messenger to bring features and
capabilities that might not make sense, or
even be possible, as part of the main
Facebook service. And of course, a
separate app gives Facebook even more
advertising and other moneymaking
opportunities.
For that reason, Facebook is pushing
users to download the app, even though it
takes up valuable storage on the phone.
The company recently started blocking
access to Facebook messages from
mobile web browsers on Android phones
in some markets. The ban will extend to
iPhones as well, though Facebook isn’t
saying when.
Before you complain, consider what a
separate Messenger app offers beyond
simply typing words and sending emoji
back and forth:
Group Chats
Messenger lets you easily add friends to
group chats so you can make dinner or
travel plans or just talk about your day.
Although this is also possible using your
browser, it’s more convenient with the
app. If kicking people off mobile browser
messaging is the stick to prod people
toward the app, the convenience of
Messenger is the carrot to lure users.
Tapping the “groups” icon at the bottom
of the screen will take you to existing
group chats and let you start new ones.
You can add people to group chats at any
time, or leave the group. If you have an
often-used group chat, you can also “pin”
it to the top of your messages to make it
easily accessible.
Bots
Who wants to chat with people when you
can chat with … bots? Well, most of us,
but bear with me here.
Since April, Facebook has let outside
businesses create “chat bots” that can
send you the news or weather, help you
shop for shoes or book plane tickets and
hotel rooms. You send a message to a
brand’s bot just as you would a friend;
the difference is that the reply is
automated through software. The results
can be clumsy, as expected for such a
new venture.
But bots can be helpful. Expedia, for
example, lets you search for hotels and
book them by messaging with its bot.
Start by telling the bot where you are
going and when. After some back and
forth, the bot will give you hotel options.
To book, the bot will take you to Expedia’s
website.
This is just the start. Perhaps one day,
the bot will be more useful by letting you
book directly through Messenger. David
Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging
products, has called bots “overhyped in
the short term and underhyped in the long
term.”
SEND OR REQUEST MONEY
Using your debit card, you can send
money to your Facebook friends using
Messenger—as long as they also have
their card number attached to their
Facebook account. You can also request
money, in case your friends forgot to pay
you for those movie tickets and aren’t
answering their email. To use the
payments option, select the person you
want money from and tap “payments.”
There are no extra fees to send or receive
payments, but you must use a debit card
—not a credit card.
Video Calls
Your mom isn’t on Skype? FaceTime isn’t
cutting it because your friend has
Android?
Messenger offers yet another way to do
video calls on your phone. It’s free over a
Wi-Fi connection. If you use cellular, you
might get charged for data by your phone
company.
Play Games
How about some soccer—or football, as
it’s known in most of the world? Select a
friend to play with. Then, select
Messenger’s emoji keyboard by tapping
on the emoji icon on the left side of your
message window, right above the
keyboard. Tap the soccer ball icon and
send it to your friend. Then, tap the ball
with your finger and keep tapping it so it
stays in the “air.”
During a recent, frustrating attempt, I had
a high score of just two—though that’s
still one more than what Portugal scored
to win the Euro Cup this year.

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