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Facebook rolls out a new look for Messenger

TechCrunch TechCrunch 16/06/2016 Sarah Perez

Following this week’s news that Messenger for Android users can now use the app for SMS, Facebook announced this morning a new look for its mobile messaging app that aims to offer more than just a simple list of recent conversations. While those will remain at the top of the screen, they’ll now be followed by new sections showing your Favorite contacts, friends’ birthdays, and an “Active Now” section.

This latter area will help you see who’s currently online by placing a green dot next to the friend’s name, as you’re familiar with from the desktop site’s chat sidebar. And you can tap a “See All” link to see everyone available via chat.

Meanwhile, the Favorites section will highlight those you message with the most, Facebook says, and is meant to act as a shortcut to starting new conversations with those friends.

These two areas seem like helpful additions, but the birthdays section is maybe not as welcome. Already, Facebook lights up our phones with notifications on our birthdays, and now Messenger wants to increase that. Of course, it makes sense that Facebook would add this, given that prompting people to wish friends a happy birthday can increase engagement with its app at a time when many people are using mobile messaging more, and Facebook’s social network less.

Facebook says it’s making these changes to make it “simpler and easier” for users to start conversations. But the company wants Messenger to be more than just an “inbox,” too, it notes – it has been expanding what Messenger is capable of, ranging from the introduction of bots to being a tool to chat with businesses.

The company didn’t give an indication of when the update would be rolling out, so it’s likely going live for everyone now.

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