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Facebook Messenger – Why You Should Use It

August 9, 2011 11:42 am by

Today, Facebook announced a new standalone-app called Facebook Messenger.  Tech-savvy users might have heard of WhatsApp or Beluga (which was bought by Facebook to create Facebook Messenger), which are mobile messaging apps that Facebook Messenger will eventually replace.  This app is killer because it essentially replaces SMS and all other forms of mobile communication.

So what’s the big deal?  Why should I use it?

Some of you might be wondering what the heck is Facebook Messenger, and why you should or should not use it.  This article is here to help you understand it better and why you might want to try it out — and if you feel like this article might help others, feel free to recommend it to your friends up top ;P.  The download links are at the bottom.

Facebook Messenger makes it extremely easy to communicate with your friends on a mobile device.  Think about the other alternatives that you might be currently using: Google Talk, it works well with other people who have Android devices since Talk is installed on every Android device, but you need to find and add buddies.  SMS, bad but works if you have their phone number, unfortunately, it costs money for a SMS plan and not very useful (can’t specify location or group chat).  WhatsApp, decent because it works on any device but you need to convince your friends to install WhatsApp.  BBM/iMessage: Platform-specific, can’t be used by everyone.  The current choices out there have common lacking functionality that Facebook Messenger addresses.

1. Message anyone that is your friend on Facebook, as well as your phonebook contacts

Some of the people that I can message via Facebook MessengerThe common problem in GTalk and every other mobile messaging app is the lack of friends.  You have to proactively reach out to others to find out if they use the same service as you, and then add them in order to begin using their product.  I used GTalk prior to Facebook Messenger, and it is great for communicating only with my closest friends that use Android.  However, it becomes difficult when I want to message other people who don’t fit that category.

With Messenger, you won’t have to ask somebody for their phone number or their screen name — as long as you are friends on Facebook, you can instantly message them.  As you can see in the screenshot, Messenger lets me communicate with any of my friends instantly without having to worry about whether they have text, or if they have this app or not.  It ignores all platform barriers (Android/iOS/RIM/etc) and thus, makes it possible to connect with anybody with a mobile device.  I would say this is the number one feature, which is the ability to message anybody that you are friends with on Facebook instantly.

2. SMS Integration 

send SMS from Facebook MessengerFacebook Messenger is going to kill SMS as the primary form of mobile messaging.  It really does not make sense to pay for a SMS plan anymore.  We all know (or at least should know) that carriers pay virtually nothing for text messages and it is an extremely archaic way to communicate with somebody (140-char limit, and no rich media integration such as pictures or location).

In this screenshot, you can see that I have the choice between sending the message to her mobile number, or to her inbox 0n facebook.com.  If the people you message use Facebook Messenger, then they will instantly receive a push notification on their phone when you send them a message.  If you message someone who does not have Facebook Messenger on their mobile device, then you can send the message via SMS for free, as long as their number is supported (you can’t send to some international carriers).  I think it’s really important to note that last part when you are able to send texts for free.

 

3. Location and Photo Sharing

Sharing your location via Facebook MessengerHow many times have you wanted to tell somebody where you are when trying to meet via texts?  I remember reading this reddit post a while back and sharing the hivemind’s sentiment, “Why don’t we have something like this already?”.  Sharing a map view is such a useful feature to have when trying to coordinate a place to meet and Facebook Messenger allows you to do just that.  If you share your location, friends can view a map that they can then search how to find directions to your current location.  I love how Facebook Messenger’s arrow icon is almost exactly the same as the image link in the reddit post, it’s almost as if they reddit themselves and listened to the hivemind.  As usual, you can turn off location sharing for all messages as well as on a per message and per thread basis.  Attaching photos is also nice, good for quickly sharing pictures taken on your phone with someone…or a group of people.

4. Group Chat

Chat with multiple people using Facebook MessengerNot much that needs to be said.  There has definitely been times when I had to use SMS to communicate with multiple people and it was laughably pathetic.  It was like playing telephone.  With group chat, everyone can stay synced and it makes coordinating and planning easier, especially when you use group chat with number 3.

 

Conclusion

I have been using it for a few weeks now (internal dogfooding ftw), and it is quite solid for a version 1.  I have chosen Facebook Messenger already as my default for mobile messaging.  Sure, on occasion, I’ll still use GTalk and sometimes Google Voice for texting, but if I can convince my closest friends to use Facebook Messenger, then there will be no reason to use any other service.  I can instantly message them, attach pictures as well as share my location, and also start group conversations to communicate with multiple people.

However, there are still some things I don’t like about it.  For example, although I can send SMS to most of my friends, for those I have convinced to use Google Voice entirely for texting, I am not able to since it doesn’t support sending SMS to Google Voice numbers.  When I tried sending a text to a Google Voice user, an error message pops up but it is not apparent to me that it doesn’t work because Messenger doesn’t support his carrier.  And if I can’t send to his mobile number, then why can’t I select the option to send a Facebook message instead?  Also, a nitpick is when creating a new conversation, it is difficult to understand what the mobile icon next to their name meant.  As of now, I believe it means it’ll be sent to their mobile phone.  Lastly, for some people, having more customizable alert muting options also would be more useful.

A few weeks ago, during the Skype Video integration launch, Mark Zuckerberg said that “this is possible because the social infrastructure exists, the system knows we’re connected and we have the pipe open between us so new applications can flow between us”.  Facebook is at a very strategic advantage where they have something that no other company has, and that is your social graph.  With that “social infrastructure” in place, applications that use Facebook will inherently be better than the ones that don’t.  Facebook Messenger is an excellent example where it is already better than the current options out in the market right now because it is built on top of your social network.

[Android Market link][iPhone App Store link]

Filed under: General,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jesse Chen @ 11:42 AM

About

Jesse is a software engineer at Facebook, who just graduated from UC Berkeley. Passionate about mobile technology and entrepreneurship, he started his own blog as a home for his tutorials, projects, and random thoughts. Follow him on Facebook to stay updated on his latest tutorials and projects.


Going Google

November 3, 2010 7:15 pm by

Introduction

One of the best things that one could do with their own domain, in my opinion, is to go Google.  What I mean, by ‘going Google’, is setting up the web-based suite Google Apps on your own domain.  For hobbyists like me who just wants a quick solution for hosting their own email or calendar domain, I think Google Apps is great.

Google Apps for Your Own Domain

For example, how awesome is it to set up your own email domain, which in my case would be *@jessechen.net, to distinguish yourself from common peasants in the *@gmail.com, *@yahoo.com, or *@hotmail.com land?  It gives you a nice brand to advertise yourself [or organization] and at the same time, makes your email incredibly unique.  Setting up an email domain is easy nowadays with webmail packages such as SquirrelMail [oh god, not SquirrelMail], but I think it is safe to say that GMail is arguably the best web email client, if not the best email client ever.  Some of the best features, in my opinion, are filters, gChat, keyboard shortcuts, and tight integration with contacts and tasks.  The benefit of Google Apps is having your own email domain with your web email client being GMail.  Heck, you can even design your own logo, making GMail pretty much your own unique customized email client.

See mine, for example.

creating your own customized GMail with Google Apps

What I particularly like about having my own email domain, is the ability to have a catch-all email address.  The short version of what it does, is basically any incoming emails that are not sent to a known email address in the domain gets forwarded to an email address you specify.  So, for example, when my friend, say his name was Thomas, wanted my email address to send me something.  I simply created an email address on-the-fly for him, and told him to email me at thomas@jessechen.net.  I will still get his email at my actual email address [since I specified my catch-all email address to be my personal one].  I know, that example is kind of silly and pointless, but what you can do with this ability is to create email addresses for all your subscription/registration purposes.  That way, you can easily create filters for each website and/or detect which sites you have given your email address to started selling your address to spam [which you can easily block now with filters].

The Google Apps suite not only includes email, but also many others such as Google Calendar, Google Documents, Google Wave [sad to see it go], and Google Chat.  You can create up to 50 email addresses I believe with the free edition.  With that email address, you have access to only a few Google Products  (edit: this has since changed).  There really aren’t that many products supported, so it is disappointing.  However, there is a super secret Google Tested Truster beta program where they transition your Google Apps accounts into more full-fledged regular Google Accounts.  I am currently in that beta program, and for me personally, I can use my *@jessechen.net address for my Youtube, Voice, Reader, Analytics, Adsense, Chrome, and on my Android device.  The only negative is that Google checkout is not supported yet for Google Apps accounts, so on my Droid X I still have to set up my original Google account in order to buy apps in the Market.  Hopefully, the paypal payment option will soon come into effect.

Conclusion

The reason why I decided to write about Google Apps account and give them a glowing review is because of the huge impact it made.  It streamlined my email, beforehand, I used to have an *@att.net, *@berkeley.edu, and *@gmail.com email that each had their own separate inboxes.  I tried using Thunderbird for the longest time, but it never did grow on me.  However, now I have one inbox, that is online so I can access it where ever I have Internet access, and I can send and receive all my emails all on one webpage, with my own unique email address domain.  Not to mention, I can sign on to gChat and AIM in my GMail, thus making it one webpage for almost all of my online activity.  Now, I know that I can reap most of the same benefits with a *@gmail.com address, but someone freaking took jesse.chen@gmail.com, and simply put, having an email address whose domain is your own name is pretty damn cool.  I was just motivated to share this with anyone out there the ridiculous amount of benefits Google Apps have.  I highly advise Google Apps, definitely set it up on your own domain if you can do so.

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , — Jesse Chen @ 7:15 PM

About

Jesse is a software engineer at Facebook, who just graduated from UC Berkeley. Passionate about mobile technology and entrepreneurship, he started his own blog as a home for his tutorials, projects, and random thoughts. Follow him on Facebook to stay updated on his latest tutorials and projects.


Motorola Droid vs. Droid X Benchmark Tests

July 25, 2010 11:22 am by

Quadrant Standard Benchmark

In this video, I ran the Quadrant Benchmark test on both the Motorola Droid and the Droid X at the same time.  The Quadrant Standard benchmark tests the CPU/GPU by conducting a variety of arithmetic that stress the CPU, memory throughput tests, I/O database read/writes, and running short graphic animations to see how many FPS the device can handle.  In the end, the data is sent to their servers and a score is calculated based off all those tests.  They show your device’s score compared to other devices in a bar graph to see how your device pits against others.  In my tests, the Motorola Droid that is running at the standard 600MHz, android 2.2 froyo scored 874, which is just above the average score for a Samsung Galaxy S running 2.1 eclair.  The average score for a Droid running 2.1 is really low in the charts, scoring 2nd to the bottom so one can see the drastic boost in speed that an android device gets when it updates from 2.1 to 2.2, because of the JIT compiler that is introduced in 2.2.

The Droid X, however, scored a whopping 1263 in this video, and that is just shy of a Nexus One running 2.2.  So, although the Droid X is running 2.1 eclair, the 1GHz OMAP 3630 processor is super fast.  One can only imagine how well the Droid X will score when it is updated to 2.2.  It will be off the charts, literally.

Linpack for Android

Linpack for Android benchmarks your smartphone by calculating how many megaflops it can calculate in a given amount of time.  I ran a series of 5 tests to get a better understanding on how each device stands compared to each other.

Droid: 9.129 | Droid X: 8.328

Droid: 9.632 | Droid X: 8.328

Droid: 9.598 | Droid X: 8.315

Droid: 9.615 | Droid X: 7.834

Droid: 9.598 | Droid X: 8.328

As you can see, the Droid consistently calculated more megaflops than the Droid X.  So surprisingly, in this benchmark, the Droid takes the cake and goes home with the money.  I can guess that this is a test purely stressing the CPU, which makes it more even for the Droid.  However, if it was that simple, the Droid X should have easily won because it’s processor is 1.6x faster than the Droid.  Do keep in mind, though, that the Droid has a JIT compiler, which somehow plays into this benchmark, making it compute megaflops faster 😛  I wish I can explain the details in whole, but unfortunately, I don’t really know much more than that.

I will update with another video when the Droid X gets 2.2 froyo, and then we’ll see how it pits against the Motorola Droid.

Filed under: Android,Reviews — Tags: , , , — Jesse Chen @ 11:22 AM

About

Jesse is a software engineer at Facebook, who just graduated from UC Berkeley. Passionate about mobile technology and entrepreneurship, he started his own blog as a home for his tutorials, projects, and random thoughts. Follow him on Facebook to stay updated on his latest tutorials and projects.