Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Messenger

Text, call, share pictures and videos, send money and play games

closeup look at Facebook Messenger app icon on iOS screen

Hoch Zwei / Getty Images

Messenger, an instant messaging service owned by Facebook, can do a whole lot more than send texts. Facebook launched Messenger in August 2011 after the acquisition of a group messaging app called Beluga. Although it's owned and operated by Facebook, the app and website are separate from Facebook.

You don't have to be on Facebook's website or even have a Facebook account, to use Messenger. While the two are partially connected when you have a Facebook account, you aren't required to have one to use Messenger.

How to Access Facebook Messenger

Messenger can be used in conjunction with Facebook on your computer, at Messenger.com or accessed using the mobile Messenger app on Android and iOS devices. Because Messenger works on iPhones, it also works on the Apple Watch.

Even though Messenger is easily accessible through the Messenger website, your Facebook account on your computer, and the mobile apps, you can install add-ons in some browsers that are designed to make it even easier to use. These add-ons are not official Facebook apps. They're third-party extensions that non-Facebook developers released for free. For example, Firefox users can put Messenger on the side of their screens and use it while on other websites, in a split-screen fashion, with the Messenger for a Facebook add-on.

Facebook Messenger Features

There are lots of features packed into Messenger. The fact that you don't have to have a Facebook account to use Messenger means these perks are available even for individuals who haven't signed up for Facebook or have closed down their accounts.

Send Text, Pictures, and Video

At its core, Messenger is a texting app for both one-on-one and group messaging, but it can also send images and video. Messenger includes lots of built-in emojis, stickers, and GIFs that you can even search through to find exactly what you want.

Some useful small features included in Messenger is its typing indicator to see when the person is writing something, delivered receipts, read receipts, and timestamp for when the message was sent, with another for when the most recent one was read.

Much like on Facebook, Messenger lets you react to messages on both the website and app.

Something else great about sharing images and videos through Messenger is that the app and website collect all the media files so you can easily sift through them.

If you're using Messenger with your Facebook account, any private Facebook message is shown in Messenger. You can delete these texts as well as archive and unarchive the messages at any time to hide or show them from constant view.

Make Voice or Video Calls

Messenger also supports audio and video calls from both the mobile app, the desktop Messenger website, and the Facebook site. The phone icon is for audio calls, while the camera icon makes face-to-face video calls.

If you using Messenger's calling features on Wi-Fi, you can use the app or website to make free internet phone calls.

Send Money

Messenger functions as a simple way to send money to people using just your debit card information. You can do this from both the website and the mobile app.

Screenshots of Facebook Messenger app showing Payments button and Pay screen

Use the Send Money button from a computer, or the Payments button in the app, to send or request money, or send a text with a price in it and then click the price to open the prompt to pay or request money. You can even add a short memo to the transaction so you can remember what it's for.

Play Games

Messenger lets you play games within the app or Messenger.com website, even while in a group message. These games are made so that you don't have to download another app or visit any other website to start playing with another Messenger user.

Share Your Location

Instead of using a dedicated app to show someone where you are, you can let recipients follow your location for up to an hour with Messenger's built-in location-sharing feature, which only works from the mobile app.

More Features in Facebook Messenger

Although Messenger doesn't have a calendar, it does let you create event reminders through the Reminders button on the mobile app. Another neat way to do it is to send a message that contains a reference to a day, and the app automatically asks you if you want to make a reminder about that message.

From within a message in the mobile app, Messenger lets you request a ride from your Lyft or Uber account.

The name of a group message can be customized, as can the nickname of the people in a message. The color theme of each conversation thread can even be modified as well.

Audio clips can be sent through Messenger if you'd like to send a message without having to text or make a full audio call.

Notifications on a per-conversation basis can be silenced for a specified number of hours or completely turned off, both for the desktop version of Messenger and through the mobile app.

Add new Messenger contacts by inviting contacts from your phone or, if you're on Facebook, your Facebook friends. There's also a custom Scan Code you can grab from within the app and share with others, who can then scan your code to add you to their Messenger instantly.