updated 06:49 pm EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
SnapChat rival's core requirement backtracked, Messenger now allows fullscreen viewing
On Thursday, Facebook updated two of its applications for iOS users: the now-required Messenger chatting program, and its SnapChat-like photo-messaging app Slingshot. The latter's biggest change is the removal of what was previously a puzzling core requirement of the app -- users no longer have to "reply" with a message, photo or video before being allowed to see the message, photo or video sent to them. The now-mandatory Messenger app has been updated to allow full-screen viewing of photos and videos.
Messenger, now at version 9.0, is the first update since Facebook decided -- without user consultation or much warning -- that it would strip out the chat functionality from its primary iOS app and require users to install and use a second app just for social chatting. The move has sparked a backlash in the user community, with the current version of Messenger now being rated at two stars when the previous (optional) versions were rated at 4.5 stars. The company claims that moving messaging to its own app allows for more features, greater speed and reliability.
Facebook has recently converted the Messenger program into a universal iOS app that works natively on iPad as well as on iPhone and iPod touch, and made Wi-Fi calling to FB chat buddies easier in the separated app, as well as allowing up to 12-second-long video clips to be shot. Time will tell if users will adopt the multiple-FB-apps strategy of the company, but the new ability to view photos and videos in full-screen rather than a small section of the app should help resolve some of the complaints.
The v1.1 update to Slingshot, in addition to dropping the required reply to unlock the incoming message, also adds the ability to invite Facebook friends and (with permission) other contacts to invite them to use the app. It also allows users to shoot videos more easily than before, improves reliability for sign-up confirmation codes, and adds a new "My People" section showing other Slingshot users.