Facebook is rolling out a new version of its Messenger app that not so subtly tries to catch up with other popular messaging services. After the update, users will be able to shoot and send 15-second videos right from withing the Messenger app itself, as well as a new way to show how much you really like something.
Creating short video clips is technically nothing new and can be traced back to the old animated GIF days. Recently, however, it became a trend popularized by Twitter when it launched Vine, something that others in the social networking industry started implementing. This ability now comes to Facebook's standalone Messenger app and builds on a recent feature that puts the camera right in inside the app itself. How it works is quite simple. Tap on the camera icon to bring up the camera view. Choose whether you want to take a regular video or a moving selfie and then tap and hold the send button to start recording. Release the button to stop and the video will be automatically sent to your chat mate. Be aware that the video length is limited to 15 seconds.
This new features in a way foreshadows the release of the much rumored and, as of three days ago, leaked Slingshot app and service by Facebook. It is no secret that Facebook is training its crosshairs on Snapchat and its so-called "ephemeral" messaging service. Early this week, that Slingshot app that was being poised as a rival to Snapchat was posted on Apple iTunes Store but promptly taken down. Facebook claimed it was accidental but also practically confirmed the existence of such an app. Honest mistake or brilliant marketing move, you decide.
Along with this new video feature, Facebook Messenger is also growing its thumb, almost literally. By tapping and holding the Thumbs Up button for a short duration, you will be producing a bigger version of the iconic image. Perhaps Facebook felt its users needed a way to show intense pleasure at a post, reply or whatever. It still has to give users a way to show displeasure, however. The bigger Like also seems to work only between mobile versions of the app. Those using the web interface will not be likely to notice your swelling digit.
These two new features are now available in the Facebook Messenger on iTunes App Store. Those on Android might already be enjoying, or not, the Big Thumbs Up, but the video shooting feature seems to still be waiting in queue in the Beta version of the app.