Ten years of Facebook Messenger | Growth coming from video calls, Instagram, says messaging product director Sateesh Kumar Srinivasan

Messenger’s Director of Messaging Product Sateesh Kumar Srinivasan shares insights into the app’s journey over the last 10 years and what users can now look forward to

The month of August marked 10 years since Facebook’s Messenger was launched. The messaging service started out as a feature integrated into Facebook’s app, but was transformed into a standalone app for iOS and Android in 2011.

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The Facebook-owned social network now hosts over a billion users, with the number of group video and audio calls doubling over the past year, and call duration growing 150%. Over time, Messenger has introduced several features to integrate with other apps in the Facebook family, including Instagram and Oculus.

Most recently, the social network introduced end-to-end encryption for voice and video calls, attempting to improve security and privacy on the messaging platform.

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Messenger’s Director of Messaging Product Sateesh Kumar Srinivasan shares insights into the app’s journey over the last 10 years and what users can now look forward to.

The following transcript has been edited for brevity.

What will Messenger do to make the service more personalised for Indian users?

We know that people in India rely on messaging apps like Messenger to connect to their friends and families. That’s why we are always working on creating rich features and experiences.

Last year, we partnered with the WHO and developers to offer government health organizations free services to help them connect with people and deliver accurate information on COVID-19. Several government health organizations launched Messenger experiences, including the Government of India. They launched a “corona Helpdesk” experience to inform people of the dos and don’ts to help prevent the spread of the virus.

We’ve also opened up our platform to allow developers and businesses to create chat experiences on Messenger. During the pandemic, we saw a 40% increase in daily conversation between people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram. In 2020, State Bank of India leveraged Messenger to replicate in-person interactions. More than half-a-million people started conversations on Messenger and were able to experience seamless banking.

How has Messenger’s integration with Instagram worked so far?

Right now, we are focused on cross-app communication between Messenger and Instagram. Over 60% of eligible people on Instagram have updated to the new Messenger experience to enjoy new features such as the ability to message people across apps. We’re pleased to see that the majority of Instagram users are updating to the new Messenger experience on Instagram. People love the new features including the ability to customize chats with new themes, the ability to react with any emoji and easily connect with friends and family across apps.

Could you elaborate on Messenger Kids’ growth since its inception? What is Messenger’s approach to children’s online safety?

Since its launch in 2017, Messenger Kids has connected millions of kids with the people they care about most through a fun, parent-supervised messaging app experience. With the transition to remote learning for schools and lack of physical social interaction, parents turned to technology to help their kids stay connected with friends and family, and Messenger Kids became instrumental in helping kids maintain and build relationships.

In 2020, we expanded Messenger Kids to more than 170 countries around the world, including India, and introduced new features for both parents and kids. We introduced a Parent Dashboard that gives parents insight and control into how their child is using Messenger Kids, who they’re connected with and how much time they’re spending in the app. We also introduced several new AR effects, sticker packs and interactive activities to help kids express themselves and engage their friends. We’re continuing to develop new experiences that help kids build closer relationships with their friends and family.

We know that when building for kids, we have to get it right and we take that responsibility seriously. We designed Messenger Kids to comply with the law, but we also did more. We built the app with input from families as well as child safety and development experts, and we’ll continue to do so.

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