Facebook: You don't need a phone number anymore

Facebook wants to kill off SMS texting as our primary way of communicating and replace it with its own Messenger service, revealing that it reached 800 million users for the first time in 2015.

In an official blog post, Facebook's VP of messaging products, David Marcus, pointed to SMS and texting as increasingly outdated methods in the age of smartphones and internet-connected devices.

"SMS texting came to the fore in the time of flip phones," he said. "Now, many of us can do so much more on our phones; we went from just making phone calls and sending basic text-only messages to having computers in our pockets. And just like the flip phone is disappearing, old communication styles are disappearing too."

Messenger, Marcus argued, offers the same instant communication but with added features such as stickers, photos, videos, voice clips and GIFs that make it popular, also tying into the 'cross-platform' experience between desktop computers, tablets and phones that people demand.

It's also true that to use Messenger, you do not require a Facebook profile - but you do have to sign up with a mobile phone number in that case.

Alongside this ambition, Facebook wants to add money transfers to its app, specifically for those using Messenger in a business context. Putting these kinds of interactions within an existing thread of social activity, Marcus posited, adds to context and ease of use.

Last August, the company announced its own personal assistant for Messenger, dubbed 'M', which would be partially powered by humans as well as artificial intelligence. In 2016, the blog post added, Facebook also wants to add functionality to this feature despite it still being in its "very, very early days".

Marcus said: "2015 was a year when we made significant improvements to how we enable people to communicate. We created all these experiences with a mindset of helping hundreds of millions of people manage their daily interactions with people, businesses, and services more seamlessly than ever."

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

You can get in touch with Caroline via email at caroline.preece@futurenet.com.