Messenger Users No Longer Need Facebook Accounts

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This month, Facebook Messenger’s user base climbed to 700 million. In a move that should push that figure higher, the social media giant announced on Wednesday that people in the U.S., Canada, Peru and Venezuela no longer need a Facebook account to use Messenger, catering to those who don’t want to or can’t use Facebook.

Now, users in those countries can indicate when signing up for Messenger that they aren’t on Facebook and can instead make an account using their name and phone number alone. People signing up without Facebook can still upload their phone contacts to the app. The new feature resembles other popular messaging services like Kik, WeChat and Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which also only require a phone number to join. About 2 billion people will have smartphones by 2016, eMarketer predicts, and this feature could give Messenger an edge in capturing that market.A man check his facebook on his smart phone with a message reading "error loading news feed" on the skytrain (bts) in Bangkok on May 28, 2014.  Facebook users in coup-rattled Thailand reacted with alarm when they were suddenly unable to access the popular social networking site, but the junta quickly denied imposing a block. AFP PHOTO/ Nicolas ASFOURI        (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)“With Messenger, we’ve been focused on creating the best messaging experience possible by giving people a fun and easy way to connect and express themselves with friends,” Facebook engineer Louis Boval said in a post. “With this update, more people can enjoy all the features that are available on Messenger – including photos, videos, group chats, voice and video calling, stickers and more.”

The move comes as Messenger continues to ramp up its functionality, becoming more and more like a web browser than a chat window. Earlier this year Messenger introduced a payments feature, video calling and new location-sharing features. At its F8 Conference in March, Facebook announced that it is opening Messenger to developers making anything from games to stickers, as well as to businesses. In some cases, users can purchase products in Messenger and track their shipment progress without leaving the app.

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