Facebook is now allowing users in some countries to sign up for its Messenger app without having a Facebook account, a move that could further accelerate Messenger’s growth, and possibly even help the app to eventually have more users than Facebook itself.
The company announced Wednesday that users in Canada, the U.S., Peru and Venezuela are now able to sign up for Messenger with just their name and phone number. Facebook still encourages users to use their Facebook account for Messenger, pointing out in a blog post that it may help to find contacts, as well as access Messenger via Facebook’s website on their PCs.
Facebook’s decision to further decouple Messenger from its social network goes to show the growing importance of messaging for the company. Facebook acquired messaging app Whatsapp for $16 billion in early 2014 and spun out Facebook’s own messaging functionality into the separate Facebook Messenger app last April.
Messenger has since become the most popular free app on Google Play, surpassing even the traditional Facebook app. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed in June that Messenger now has 700 million monthly active users. That’s still less than Facebook’s 1.4 billion monthly active users, but Messenger is growing quickly: In November it had 500 million users; by March, it had 600 million.