Spring cleaning started early at Facebook: The company unveiled a new version of its Messenger chat app Tuesday that cuts down on a lot of the clutter that had found its way into the app in recent years. The biggest change: The new Messenger version features just 3 tabs, as opposed to the previous 9 tabs.
Messenger VP Stan Chudnovsky readily admitted during a press briefing Tuesday morning that Messenger had gotten a bit messy over the years. “Development is a sequential thing,” he said. “You build a feature, and then you build another feature, and then you build another feature, and they are piling up.”
“We need to be simple again, and we need to be powerful,” he concluded.
Front and center in the new Messenger interface is a “Chats” tab that offers access to a user’s recent conversations in reverse chronological order. A second “People” tab lists a user’s contacts, and a third “Discover” tab houses games, brands and all the other stuff you may not interact with that frequently.
Facebook was able to simplify some of those tabs by adding more complex interactions. For instance, users can access features like video chats and photo sharing directly from the Chats or People tab by swiping on an individual contact.
Chudnovsky said that the company took some cues for the new Messenger design from Messenger Lite, its pared-down app for less powerful phones and user sin emerging markets. “Every single time when you make an app simpler, people are using the app more and more and more,” he said. “We tried to take those learnings and implement them into Messenger 4 as well.”
However, while Messenger Lite omitted some features to concentrate on core use cases, the new Messenger app still offers all of the features previously available in Messenger. This also includes Stories, which has been one of the more controversial features, with some critics complaining that the company was shoving Stories into all of its apps.
Chudnovsky said Tuesday that Stories had been “one of the most sought-after features that people want.” Company representatives reiterated that Stories were used by 300 million people every day across Messenger and Facebook, but didn’t break down how many people were using Stories just within the Messenger app. Facebook Messenger director of product design Loredana Crisan added that a number of users complained when a recent bug briefly omitted Stories from the app.
Facebook did reiterate Tuesday that Messenger is used by over 1.3 billion people a month, a data point that Facebook first released a little over a year ago. 400 million of those people use voice and video chat every month, and the number of photos shared on Messenger every month has reached 17 billion.