Facebook Tries To Make Its Camera Happen Again

Facebook built a "brand new, faster, and easier-to-use" camera into the standalone Messenger apps. The company also said that more than 2.5 billion emoji, photos, stickers, and videos are sent using the service each day, which is why it's making it easier to send visual content via its mobile apps.

Messenger is fast becoming the new Facebook. Instead of waiting for another social network to replace it--like it did to MySpace and Friendster--the company has figured out that many of its users prefer one-to-one or one-to-few communications over the mostly-public setup of its main service. So it's building Messenger into a product unto itself rather than restricting it to being just another feature in the all-too-cluttered sidebar of Facebook proper.

At the same time, Facebook also recognizes that many people are using visual communications tools instead of texting each other, as it pointed out:

In some ways the camera is now replacing the keyboard. As more people use Messenger in their everyday lives, we wanted to make it faster, simpler and more fun to send photos and videos — so we built the new Messenger camera.

This isn't the first time Facebook has tried to make a camera. The company previously made a standalone photo app dubbed, appropriately enough, Camera. It wasn't long for this world; Camera limped along for a while after Facebook acquired Instagram, but it was never an influential part of the social network. Many of its users were happy to either post unedited photos via the main Facebook app or to edit them with independent software.

Now it's the camera's time to shine. Facebook is doing something interesting by making the new camera exclusive to Messenger. The decision is sure to splinter its userbase even further--sharing photos is one of the main Facebook service's primary features--by sending more people to the standalone app. So why would Facebook help one of its products cannibalize the other? Easy: because it knows that's going to give it the best chance of surviving.

Contrast this announcement with the news that Twitter added Periscope streaming into its app. That sounds great. Facebook has a live-streaming tool, Facebook Live, and it makes sense for Twitter to have a competitive offering. But given that the company just killed Vine (remember Vine?), this doesn't bode well for Periscope as a standalone service. Why have live-streaming in two different apps? It doesn't make a lot of sense from a user's perspective.

Facebook has taken a different tack. Just look at what it's done with gaming: First, it announced Facebook Gameroom to make it easier for developers to develop and distribute apps for PC gamers. Then it announced Instant Games, which has some compatibility with the main Facebook service, but is mostly designed for Messenger. The company is tackling the same problem (expanding its gaming influence) in distinct ways for different applications.

Twitter is basically a bird that keeps laying eggs--Music, Vine, Periscope--and consuming them whenever it has to fight to survive. Facebook is more like the ouroboros. Sure, it keeps cannibalizing itself by having Messenger draw people away from the social network, but that also lets the company know where its next meal is coming from. Turning a billion-plus users into another billion-plus users is better than gobbling up any potential for growth.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • bit_user
    The headline really should've mentioned something about an App. Currently, it suggests they're building a physical camera. Now that would be news.
  • cats_Paw
    Time to delete my FB account.