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How Facebook is going to kill the phone number

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:10PM EST
Facebook Messenger Free Phone Calls
Image: Facebook

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What do you do after building a user base that consists of around 20% of the entire planet? You start replacing the things they use with your own products. That’s what David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook, talked about in a blog post laying out the company’s plans for 2016.

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Facebook’s Messenger app has gone through some drastic changes in recent years. It gained the ability to make phone calls to other users, it was removed from the mobile Facebook app and it stopped requiring users to have a Facebook account at all.

It’s not a perfect piece of software (as countless one-star review on the App Store will attest), but it’s still one of the most popular forms of communication available on any mobile device, especially in the United States.

Need proof? Here’s plenty of proof:

Although you might be distracted by all the new features Facebook has introduced to its 800 million users, the real interesting line appears on the right side of the chart. Facebook believes that the number 1 trend in 2016 (in relation to its messaging app) will be the disappearance of the phone number.

As someone who frequently uses phone numbers, I was taken aback by this apparent trend. Why would we do away with phone numbers? No, I can’t remember a single reason to keep them off the top of my head, but they seem to get the job done.

“With Messenger, we offer all the things that made texting so popular, but also so much more,” Marcus explains. “Yes, you can send text messages, but you can also send stickers, photos, videos, voice clips, GIFs, your location, and money to people.

“You can make video and voice calls while at the same time not needing to know someone’s phone number. You don’t need to have a Facebook account to use Messenger anymore, and it’s also a cross platform experience – so you can pick up where you left off whether you’re on a desktop computer, a tablet, or your phone.”

Despite my aversion to Facebook, I find myself using the Messenger app more and more frequently month after month. I haven’t placed a single phone call using the app yet, but who’s to say that it won’t be my primary mode of communication before the end of 2016? We’ll check back in at the end of the year and see if Marcus picked the right trend.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.