Facebook Messenger passes 500m users

<p>Facebook has said that its new Messenger app has passed the 500 million user mark.</p>

Facebook Messenger has passed the 500 million user mark, according to the social networking giant.

The Silicon Valley-based company introduced its Messenger app in 2011 and encouraged users to download it to easily send private messages. The social network faced criticism as it phased out its traditional inbox system to replace it with the app. However, its popularity has grown in recent months with the company noting that usage had doubled from 200 million in April to over 500 million in November.

Facebook's new Messenger app allows users to not only send messages but also pictures, videos and make calls free of charge. The move was designed to streamline the service offered but users were critical of the app. Many stated that they did not like the idea of leaving the Facebook website to use a different app simply to send messages.

Despite the negative feedback, Facebook's director of product management Peter Martinazzi said that the company would be continuing with its use.

Writing in a company blog, Mr Martinazzi said: "Messenger was the first of our standalone apps, and unlike our core Facebook apps, it focused on one use case – messaging. We've also continued to improve speed and reliability. Updates to Messenger ship every two weeks so it continues to evolve and improve."

Facebook's decision to roll out its Messenger app comes after the company was given the go-ahead to purchase another mobile messenger service – WhatsApp. There has been a lot of opposition to Facebook's proposed $19 billion (£11.9 billion) acquisition of WhatsApp, but the social networking firm's decision has been approved by the European Union regulators.

The European Commission deemed that Facebook and WhatsApp were "not close competitors" and it would not impact on the range of applications available to consumers. The deal represents the largest in Facebook's ten-year history and gives it a major platform in mobile messaging.

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