Facebook hopes you'll trade texting for Messenger

Facebook Messenger for Android doesn't require an account -- just name, phone number

Facebook wants to get mobile phone users to forget text messaging and switch to its updated Messenger service.

Facebook Messenger has been an instant messaging service of sorts for Facebook users until now. On Tuesday, the social network is changing that up.

With an updated app for Android, users can create a Messenger account with their name and phone number. They can sign up and start messaging any mobile contacts without joining Facebook.

"Just install the app and tap Get Started to reach your contacts faster, start group conversations, share photos and more," the company announced.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Facebook is going after the text messaging market and would have a good shot at taking a big bite out of it.

"For Facebook, it's all about mindshare," he added. "Once someone uses them for messaging, there will be plenty of opportunities to get them to join Facebook. People can send links to pics, status updates, etc. Getting more people on Facebook leads to more money for the company. More users equals more ads."

Kerravala noted that texting plans are expensive, and Facebook would have an opportunity to lure SMS texters away from regular texting for Messenger.

"This could cause some damage to cell phone companies, which make a ton of money on text messages," he said.

The upgraded app is being rolled out first to Android users in India, Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela and South Africa. Facebook reported that it will be available in other countries "shortly after." There was no specific information on how soon it will be available in other countries.

Kerravala said he was surprised the app isn't being offered first in the U.S.

"They could be trying it with a smaller, more controllable audience to be safe but that's not normally the Facebook way," he added.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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