Facebook forcing us to download Messenger is a brilliant move

The right tool for the job

Unfortunately, though, when I get a message through Facebook, I have to run its hazardous distraction gauntlet to view it, meaning there is a high-to-100% chance I will get abducted by at least one thing in my feed, which will send me down one of those aforementioned click-holes, thereby blowing large holes in my productivity.

And Facebook Messenger solves this problem. When I get Facebook messages, it allows me to see and respond to only those messages. No weight loss come-ons, no parents getting hit in the crotch by overexcited 2 year-olds, no you'll-never-guess-what-happens-next.

That's why I like it. But I was using Messenger before this whole mess started. What about this business of Facebook forcing its users to use a separate app for messages?

I think that makes a lot of sense too. It comes down to good app design and the ways that apps fundamentally differ from programs that run on PCs. In the past, PC software (or services that run in the browser) have typically added disparate features over time, which is something the more flexible PC interface can handle more deftly. Apps, on the other hand, are typically purpose-built tools that (when made correctly) help us accomplish a single function better than we could in a multifunction tool.

Real-time and asynchronous: different beasts

Facebook's original stock in trade was asynchronous communication. You're interacting with your friends, but not in real time. This asynchronous nature is why it's so much more useful for entertainment than Twitter (which is better for keeping up on what's happening in real time). Facebook presents the posts its algorithm determines are most relevant to you from the past several days of your friends' activities. Conversations on a single topic are public, can last days, and are conveniently filed into their own buckets instead of jammed into the rest of your Twitter feed.

Messenger's functions are more about synchronous communications, as in real-time, all-in-a-long-stream chat. That chat can be done via text, emoji, sound files or Skype-like voice-over-IP. And if we want those communications to be as streamlined and easy-to-accomplish as possible, it makes sense to have a specially optimized app. In addition, these communications are also typically private or limited to just a few people for a given conversation. It makes psychological sense to separate them from our public Facebook lives.

And it makes no sense at all to have all of these real-time and private chat features bogging down the original Facebook app, which should optimized for browsing feeds, consuming content and engaging in asynchronous communication.

Different jobs require different tools and Facebook seems to understand this. Messenger is where you talk to your friends. Facebook is where you talk to your "friends." If all goes well, I hope to see Facebook bring more innovation and functionality to both these apps, each of which will hopefully enhance the specific experiences they have been built for.

Splitting these apps may provoke some short term pain (you're not getting the 23 seconds it takes to download Messenger back, you know), but it's a long term win for Facebook's users. As a side-bonus, you'll get to experience the joy of communicating with your friends without your newsfeed putting a bag over your head and shoving you roughly down a click-hole every time you say hi.