Messenger now requires new users to have a Facebook account

A handful of years ago, Facebook made a change with its Messenger app that was largely praised: it no longer required users to have a Facebook account in order to sign up for the messaging service. This was great news for people who weren't interested in having a Facebook account, but who struggled to get their friends to use a different chat app. Now, less than five years later, Facebook has reversed its decision.

Facebook changed its Messenger signup requirement quietly in recent days, only confirming it to Venture Beat after some users spied the change in the social network's help center. New users are no longer able to sign up for just Messenger by using their phone number, meaning they must create a Facebook account in order to get access to Messenger.

This change applies to people using Messenger or the Messenger Lite variant. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the change, stating that most Messenger users were also logging into the service using a Facebook account; as a result, the company claims that it wanted to 'simplify the process' with this change.

Users who already use Messenger with a phone number can continue to do so; Facebook won't force them to create an account in order to keep using the service. Whether the change hints at other intentions behind closed doors remains to be seen — specifically whether Facebook will draw in WhatsApp and Instagram under a similar arrangement, unifying the experience across all three of its major products.

It's no secret that Facebook has big plans for messaging as a core part of its various products. Earlier this year, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in a long blog post that Facebook will make 'it possible for you to send messages to your contacts using any of our services,' something that will also eventually extend to cover SMS.