In a semi-surprising bit of social news, Mark Zuckerberg and company have officially removed the requirement that users of its Messenger app sign up using their Facebook login credentials. At first glance, it seems like a small, relatively innocuous policy change, but if you take a minute to think about it, it just might be the most revolutionary and forward-thinking thing the company has ever done.
It might seem like a few years have gone by, but Messenger has only been officially decoupled from Facebook proper since last April. In the last year, Messenger has shown explosive growth — from 200 million to over 700 million monthly active users. Why change now? Why fix what clearly isn’t broken?
The answer is as simple as it is brilliant: Almost everyone who wants to use Facebook is already using it, so rather than take no for an answer, Facebook is going after the skeptics.
The cool kids
Every few months, we see a new report and a resulting smattering of articles with headlines like “Facebook ‘Not Hip’ Say Youngsters.” The latest study, done by Frank N. Magid Associates Inc., noted that only 88 percent of U.S. 13-to-17-year-olds use it, down from 95 percent just a few years ago. Where did they go? Certainly not to Twitter, where the numbers are even more dismal. They’re mostly using chat applications like Snapchat, Kik and (Facebook-owned) WhatsApp.
If 88 percent of your friends are using Facebook (and Messenger) anyway, removing the need to maintain an actual Facebook presence might be just the thing to get you to stop using four different messaging apps at once.
The privacy people
Since the very moment it became the dominant social network, there has been a small but devoted group of people who have refused all of Facebook’s advances. Under the pretext of privacy concerns, these are the people who take to Twitter to lambast the company for the most minor of TOS changes, the people who championed Ello for a little too long, the people who posted a copyright notice to their Instagram accounts before abandoning the service entirely.
Taking away the need for all that personally identifiable info might counter all those privacy objections, especially once all of your other friends have given up the fight.
It’s sometimes hard to believe, but there are places in the world where Facebook has never really gotten a foothold. Some markets have homegrown alternatives (VK, Sina Weibo, etc.) while others still rely on the aging SMS protocol for real-time communication. For international users with limited service plans, texting can quickly become prohibitively expensive.
A free service that allows you to communicate with anyone, virtually anywhere in the world, is a fantastic introduction to Facebook for people who haven’t yet had the opportunity to use it.
Carmen Sutter is a product manager for Adobe Social, focusing on data collection and campaigns. In her role, Sutter is responsible for the social-monitoring functionality as well as the integration of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social. She is a board member of the Big Boulder Initiative, the world’s first social-data-focused industry association. Prior to joining Adobe, she led the digital analytics teams at Warner Music Group and Scholastic in New York City. Reach her @c_sutter.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.