Facebook is adding yet another standalone app to its mobile arsenal.
The social network announced Groups on Tuesday, an app dedicated to Facebook's existing group messaging and sharing feature. Groups serve as mini social networks within Facebook, allowing small teams of people to share messages and posts the same way they do on their timelines, but in a more private setting.
More than 700 million people use Facebook Groups every month, says Shirley Sun, the product manager for the app, up from just 500 million people in January. More than half of those 700 million users visit Groups on mobile each month, and while Sun isn't sharing group totals, she says "hundreds of thousands" of new groups are created on the site each day.
The tool's popularity was a big reason Facebook elected to build a dedicated app, Sun told Re/code. Groups are also hard to locate within the main app because it has so many other features, she added.
With the new app, which Facebook started building almost nine months ago, your Groups are available as soon as the app opens. You can post and scroll through content in the same way you could on the Facebook app — the Groups app is simply a shortcut to the feature, which also looks and feels simpler as its own standalone product.
Groups is the fifth app to come out of Facebook Creative Labs since January, a collection of teams inside Facebook that specifically builds new mobile apps. The four apps that launched earlier this year — Paper, Slingshot, Mentions and Rooms— have all followed a similar pattern, launching at or near the top of their respective categories in the App Store before falling quickly out of the spotlight.
Sun says she's aware of this trend, and isn't worried about growth for Groups. "Everybody hopes they can predict the market, predict whether people are going to be retentive or go through a hump and then just go away," she said. "We won't pretend we can predict the market. What we can do is make sure we deliver the best thing possible and then iterate based on people's feedback."
There's little doubt Groups will experience a similar spike in user downloads this week thanks to the visibility it receives from Facebook. What's unclear is whether all of these apps will benefit Facebook users in the long run, or simply turn users off. Does having six different Facebook-related apps on your phone really create the best experience? It's an individual preference, but one that many users will make as Facebook keeps adding new apps to the mix.
Unlike Messenger, Facebook's messaging service that was removed from the flagship app earlier this year, Groups will still be available to users through the main app. Sun says that user complaints stemming from the Messenger split didn't motivate Facebook to leave Groups in both apps; instead, it makes those decisions on a case by case basis depending on the product, she added.
Groups is available Tuesday on both iOS and Android.
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