Update: Facebook has done it! It has finally created a messenger standalone for the web. You can go here to check it out (here if that doesn’t let you login) or here to read about it (but why would you?). Cheers!
Facebook has changed a lot over the past few years. There have been acquisitions, newsfeed, design changes and rollbacks and a whole mess of things. Facebook obviously understands that the future is mobile (hence WhatsApp and Instagram) and that people are moving in all kinds of directions, towards private spaces (hence the separate Messages app) and public posts (hence hashtags and the searchability of your FB post that goes with those).
So what’s next? Well, today, I wanted to send a link to my brother. Since I’m on Windows right now and not on my Mac (I usually just iMessage links to him), I fired up Facebook and sent it to him in a message. Why? Because it’s convenient, because Facebook detects the OpenGraph information about the page and processes it to make a neat link+image combo and because we have many conversations on there anyways.
Why didn’t I send it to him as a directed Facebook post? I could have, but I didn’t care enough to make it public. Our Facebook activity is not our true selves but a reflection of what we want to portray to others, and this link didn’t necessarily fit into any paradigm of my public self. (In other words, it wasn’t epic. Publicly shared links must be epic.)
Why didn’t I send it to him in an email? Hush, don’t ask silly questions.
But then, I wanted to send him another link and another. So what did I do? I clicked on that miserably little link that takes me to Facebook’s dedicated messages page so that I could share links and have conversations in a larger space than that goofy little box that occupies the bottom right corner of my screen.
That’s when it hit me. Facebook has a beautiful Messages app on the iPhone. I’ve sung praises of it before. But there’s a curious lack of a well designed web interface for messages. The old and clunky interface that sits there now has been sitting untouched since a long time.
Now, you’d argue that another private space that I could have used was the Facebook Groups feature. It looks nice, it’s often updated and has the same look-and-feel as the rest of Facebook. But why would I create a group for just myself and my brother? There’s no need for that since /messages exists. The only thing needed is to build a nice looking private messages space that people would use.
I was really tempted, as I started writing this post, to build this webapp myself. Facebook’s API is open and easy to work with. I’m sure I could have found many plugins and libraries to make the task easier for me. But any such project can never be feature complete. I can build it and you can come, but you’ll never stay because of lack of features, because a single guy sitting with a laptop with a limited amount of time can only do so much.
So Facebook, here’s the next thing you need to do – make messenger.com what it really should be – a full-fledged webapp that’s as classy as any other public facing feature of Facebook. I hope to see it soon!