Facebook Messenger is one of the popular instant messaging apps out there, although it’s not Facebook’s most popular one — that’s WhatsApp, which also happens to be the only one that offers end-to-end encryption right now. A few years ago, Facebook made it possible for new Messenger users to start talking to their friends and family without registering for Facebook. That was actually a great way to stay off Facebook for anyone not happy with the intrusiveness of the world’s biggest social network, without giving up one of the best things about Facebook. Going forward, however, new Facebook Messenger users will have to register for a Facebook account to actually use the chat service.
Facebook has quietly removed the ability to sign up for Messenger using a phone number, but confirmed the feature to VentureBeat.
If you’re new to Messenger, you’ll notice that you need a Facebook account to chat with friends and close connections. We found that the vast majority of people who use Messenger already log in through Facebook and we want to simplify the process. If you already use Messenger without a Facebook account, no need to do anything.
It’s unclear what prompted the change, but it makes sense to assume that most Messenger users have Facebook accounts, especially users who’ve signed up for Facebook long before Messenger arrived. At least those people who’ve signed up for Messenger with a phone number will still be able to use the service in the future.
Going forward, Facebook plans to unify Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram under a single messaging system that would also happen to be end-to-end encrypted. It’s unclear, however, how the system will work. Facebook goal is to allow anyone to use any of the three apps to reach anyone else in their contact list, without having to register for all three services. It’s also unclear whether users who already have Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram accounts will have to link those accounts to unify their messaging experience.