Once upon a time, Facebook decided it would be a good idea to make a dedicated Android smartphone for its services. They sought a manufacturer, went through the usual design steps and we wound up with the HTC First, a device that was considered underwhelming at release and packed with features almost nobody wanted. Although at one point, AT&T apparently sold out of the strange device, it surprised absolutely nobody when it made its way to the bargain bin and was eventually discontinued with no mention of a successor. Features like Facebook Home, messenger integration and enhanced sharing intent went on to be ported to all phones, succeeded by better apps and services or just killed off outright. For all intents and purposes, the idea of the Facebook phone in itself, let alone the ho-hum hardware the idea debuted on, was dead on arrival. HTC had tried integrating some Facebook tweaks before in the form of the altogether forgettable HTC Status, but it was just as doomed as the First.
Fast forward to yesterday’s Code Mobile conference. David Marcus, Facebook’s stargazing vice president of Messenger and related departments, confirmed everybody’s worst fears; there would be no more Facebook phones. He did talk of a bright future for Facebook and Messenger, but it would take place very far from the hardware space. He said that Facebook has benefited immensely from the mobile boom, with some 76 percent of its ad revenue now coming from mobile devices.
Facebook and Marcus have been pushing Messenger hard, expanding it and making it easier to work with. New features and ventures such as the digital assistant known as M and opening up Messenger’s API to allow easier app integration point to Facebook and Messenger becoming increasingly important in users’ lives, thus showing them more ads and bolstering the company’s already astronomical profits. Messenger is used by over 700 million users monthly, barely trailing behind Facebook-owned WhatsApp at 900 million per month. Instagram is also a large piece of the puzzle, shoving ads into the faces of 400 million people per month.
Interestingly, signups for Messenger without becoming part of the 1.5 million-strong user base of Facebook’s main offering, its social network, are becoming increasingly commonplace, pointing to Messenger outgrowing its initial role as a private messaging service between Facebook users. It can now be used to share all kinds of content between users and non-users alike. The future for Facebook and its ilk is looking great and it’s no surprise that Marcus will continue to strive for even more compelling products as the company continues to grow.