Facebook Messenger has amassed more than 600 million monthly active users, CNBC has learned, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeks to establish his company's dominance in the newest mobile battleground.
It's an eye-popping growth number, considering it's been just four months since Facebook announced that Messenger had crossed the 500 million user mark. And as Zuckerberg prepares to take the stage at the company's F8 Developer Conference, it's a ringing validation of the company's controversial strategy to remove Messenger from the main Facebook mobile experience and all but force users to adopt something new.
Splitting off Messenger as a separate app caused headaches at first, as users rebelled against the move. But it was essential to jump-starting the latest wave of usage, Facebook growth VP Javier Olivan told CNBC earlier this month. Direct communication features were getting lost in the interface of the main Facebook app, especially as users migrated from PCs to smartphone screens.
The growth of Facebook's home-grown Messenger is especially significant because it defies the popular narrative that Facebook has had to buy growth as its core social networking experience ages. Yes, Zuckerberg was prescient enough to snap up Instagram for about $1 billion just before the company's IPO and WhatsApp for more than $19 billion a year ago. But Facebook's own Messenger is apparently seeing growth rates on par with those: Instagram boasted of 300 million monthly active users at the end of last year, and WhatsApp logged 700 million at around the same time.