Facebook and Messenger may backtrack on controversial unified app

Way back in 2011, Facebook rolled out a standalone app for Messenger, though it still continued letting people chat in the main Facebook app for some time after that. Then, in 2014, it removed messaging functionality from the main Facebook app, prompting people looking to chat it up to install Messenger and use that instead. Now, all these years later, it looks like Facebook is getting ready to integrate the two once more.

Notable Twitter sleuth Jane Manchun Wong has uncovered evidence that Facebook is preparing to integrate Messenger into Facebook again, publishing screenshots that show chat functionality within the main Facebook app. At the moment, Wong says, the app's new "Chats" feature only offers basic functionality, which means that users chatting through the Facebook app can't do things like make calls or send photos. For those features, they'll still need to open up Messenger and use that.

Limited though that chat functionality may be, this is a clear sign that the company is looking to fold Messenger back into Facebook proper. In January, we heard a rumor that claimed Facebook was looking to combine the chat features of Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp into one service covered by end-to-end encryption, and this could be Facebook's first move toward realizing that goal.

However, even if there is a time where Messenger and all of its features are integrated back into the main Facebook app, Wong doesn't think the company will discontinue the standalone Messenger app. She notes in a separate tweet that the Messenger and Facebook apps serve different markets, so Facebook will likely continue offering the Messenger app to people who are only looking for chat functionality.

There are probably a lot of people who will be happy to hear that Messenger could make a return to the main Facebook app. Facebook's decision to start forcing people to use Messenger was a controversial one back in 2014, and judging some of the replies to Wong's tweets, there are still some who are sore about it. We'll see what happens from here, but this could very well be the first step toward larger chat integration for Facebook.