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Facebook's latest test brings back in-app messaging

Image Credits: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto / Getty Images

Facebook head Tom Alison announced today that the company is testing the ability for users to access their Messenger inbox within the Facebook app. Back in 2016, Facebook removed messaging capabilities from its mobile web application to push people to the Messenger app, in a move that angered many users.

Now, the company is testing a reversal of this decision. In a blog post, Alison said the social network is currently testing this change, and noted that Facebook plans to expand the test soon. The change comes as Facebook, and other Meta-owned platforms, are looking to compete with TikTok.

"Over the coming year, we’ll build more ways to integrate messaging features in Facebook," Alison said in the blog post. "Ultimately, we want it to be easy and convenient for people to connect and share, whether in the Messenger app or directly within Facebook."

Over the past year, Facebook has been moving away from focusing on being an app for close friends and family, and has instead been positioning itself as a discovery platform. Last June, the social network revamped its "Home" feed to enhance content discovery. At the time, Facebook said the Home feed serves as a discovery engine for users to find new content and creators through algorithmic recommendations.

The move indicated Meta’s continued desire to chase TikTok, its greatest threat. Given that Facebook has been focusing on being a discovery engine, it's not surprising that it's looking to bring back in-app messaging. By doing so, it can present itself as a place for users to directly discuss content after discovering it. Alison notes that it's important for Facebook to make it easier for people to share what they discover on Facebook via messaging, without having to switch to another app. Since TikTok surfaces new content to its users, and also provides a place to discuss it via DMs, Facebook likely thinks it needs to do the same to compete with it.

As part of today's announcement, Alison said that Facebook is off to a great start this year and that the social network is "thriving."

"Contrary to reports otherwise, Facebook is not dead nor dying, but in fact alive and thriving with 2 billion daily active users," Alison wrote. "People are using Facebook for more than connecting with friends and family, but also to discover and engage around what is most important to them."

In its fourth-quarter earnings reported last month, the company reported revenue of $32.17 billion in Q4, topping estimates, though still down 4% year-over-year and representing the third straight quarter of declines. However, the stock popped after its earnings beat thanks to Meta’s promises of “a year of efficiency" and its deemphasized focus on the metaverse in favor of AI work.