Facebook Messenger isn’t just for chatting anymore. Since its split from the social network’s flagship app a year ago, it’s added a number of new features and capabilities — and grown to more than 600 million users.
Earlier this year, Facebook added a free tool to let you send money to friends through Messenger, a video chat capability and a desktop client. It also launched a platform for developers and introduced a new way for people to connect with company representatives.
But Facebook’s fast pace of innovation makes it easy to miss what’s new. Here’s a look Mesenger’s most recent additions, plus privacy settings you should know about.
Play a game and more
At Facebook’s F8 conference in March, the social network announced its new Messenger Platform, which will let its 600 million users create apps that integrate with Messenger.
Many of the Messenger apps available for download today feature new emoticons, GIFs and meme generators. But earlier this month, the social network pushed the first in-app game live: Doodle Draw Game, an online version of Pictionary that you can play with friends inside a chat window. With it, Messenger joins the ranks of rival chat apps WeChat, Line and Viber, which already support games.
To download Messenger apps, open a conversation and click the More button. Scroll through the list to find an app you’d like to add, then tap Install. The app will install on your device; to access it within Messenger, tap the More button and select it from the list.
Download Messenger for desktop
If you’ve logged onto Facebook to check a message and find yourself sucked into your news feed and friends’timelines, there’s a more productive solution: Facebook Messenger for desktop. This separate site, which Facebook launched in April, gives you access to your messages without the distractions of its full site.
The desktop version of Messenger mimics the mobile app, but with a two-column layout: You’ll find your list of conversations on the left side, and the content of your messages on the right. The desktop version features all the same capabilities and settings as the Messenger app — you can send photos, emoticons, place phone calls and video chat.
Share your location
In the past, Facebook automatically logged your precise location and pinpointed it on a map that your friends could view — unless you turned it off. Earlier this month, Facebook scrapped this practice, and instead launched an entirely optional location-sharing feature.
To share your location with a friend, tap the More icon or the location button at the bottom of your screen. “If you want to tell a friend which restaurant to meet you at, search for the restaurant and send a map of where it is, ”Facebook says. “If you’re running late, send a map of where you are to your friend to let him or her know how far away you are.”
When messaging — or voice calls — aren’t enough, Messenger also now lets you video chat. The feature, which launched in late April, lets you make a video call from anywhere and works across platforms, too: Android users can call friends on iOS devices, and vice versa. Calls are free, but you will be charged for data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.
To place a video call, tap the blue video icon in the top-right of a message. If the icon is gray, the user is unable to accept a call.
When group messages get out of hand, take a time-out from the alerts and mute the notifications. You’ll still receive the messages — and can check them at any time — but you won’t hear your device beeping or buzzing every time someone messages you.
To mute notifications for a conversation, open it in Messenger. Tap the names at the top of the message, then tap Notifications and select the period of time: You can mute notifications for 15 minutes, one hour, eight hours, 24 hours or indefinitely, until you turn notifications back on.
Earlier this year, Facebook launched a new feature that lets you send money to friends through Messenger. Facebook does not charge a fee to use it.
To send a friend money, open a message with them. Tap the $ icon at the bottom and enter the amount you want to send. Then, tap Pay in the top right and add your debit card information. Your friend will receive a notification in Messenger that will prompt them to enter their debit card information to receive the payment.
When you first downloaded Messenger, Facebook asked if you wanted to import and sync your contacts. If you did, this information is stored on Facebook servers where it could be used to make friend suggestions for you and others, it says. It might also import information from your contact list and message folders, too.
If you’re uncomfortable with sharing this information with Facebook, you can delete the contacts you imported to Messenger. Visit the app’s Settings page and tap Synced Contacts > Learn More. This page displays the contacts that were imported; to delete them, tap the button at the bottom.
Note that unless you disable another setting, Facebook will continuously import your phone book. To disable continuous sharing, visit Messenger’s Settings page, then turn off Synced Contacts.
Pin a conversation
If you often chat with the same group of people on Messenger, pin it to a page for easy access.
To pin conversations, tap the Groups button at the bottom. At the top, tap Pin, then select the conversation you’d like to add. You can also assign a name to the group chat, rather than display the list of names. Open the message, tap the names at the top, then tap Edit > Change Name.
Facebook is testing a new app called Hello, which was built by the Messenger team. Hello connects with Facebook and Messenger so you can see who’s calling, block unwanted calls and search for people and places.
When you receive a call, Facebook pulls in certain information, such as their profile picture, mutual friends and other details, such as their birthday. If you’re not Facebook friends with the caller, you’ll only see their publicly shared information. Hello is only available for Android devices.
Disable notification previews
If you don’t want the content of your messages to appear on your locked screen when a friend messages you, turn that setting off.
Navigate to your Settings page, then turn Notification Previews off. The next time a friend messages you, the notification will only show their name on your locked screen.