Whether you love Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp or hate them both, the two instant messengers are now inextricably linked to the tune of more money than it costs to buy the US porn industry, the Large Hadron Collider or the entire NBA or world music industry. But if you're tossing up about making the switch, using both, or perhaps even neither, here are the pros and cons of both services.
Messenger – what's good
Facebook's Messenger recently underwent a major facelift and has a nicer, cleaner light blue interface. The app will inform you when your contacts are online, either on Messenger or Facebook, and prompt you to encourage your non-Messenger friends to become Messenger users. It allows you to chat with individuals and groups, text non-Messenger friends using their phone number, send media including pictures, stickers and voice messages, continue chatting while in other apps via the use of Chat Heads, and share location information with your friends. Messenger also allows you to make free calls internationally to other friends using the service.
Messenger – what's bad
For starters, you can't log out wihtin the app itself, there is no log out button. You either need to log out of the Facebook app or clear the data in the app info of your smartphone's settings. There's also a lot of bugs still complicating things, like internet connections that just won't connect (and thus make the app entirely useless as an instant messenger). You also can't fully disable notifications either. Also, being spammed to get your friends to join the service is very annoying.
WhatsApp – what's good
WhatsApp is probably the most well-run instant messaging service available, handling more instant messages in a day than the entire global SMS industry. It's not without faults, but offers a very solid core service. WhatsApp uses your telephone number (and that of your friends) to set up an account so new contacts are added as soon as you get their phone number, assuming they use WhatsApp. Unlike Facebook, it is not linked to a larger service. WhatsApp allows you to send free instant messages to anyone you know with the app installed and you can chat with individuals or groups. You can send videos, pictures, voice messages and share location data. It also has a huge array of cute emoticons to spice up your messages.
WhatsApp – what's bad
WhatsApp, while providing a good core service, is kind of light on extras. There's no voice calling, moving stickers or mini games. As with Messenger, there is no option for video calling either. You can't log out of WhatsApp either because it uses your phone number, but unless you are in the app you will be able to receive messages but not appear as ''online''. WhatsApp doesn't allow you to text your friends either, in the way that Hangouts does.
|Account requires||Facebook account||Telephone number|
|Time stamps and read confirmations||Yes||Yes|
|Automatic backup of messages||Via Facebook website||Every day at 4 PM|
|Security reputation||Not great||Not great|
|Send voice messages||Yes||Yes|
|Send location data||Yes||Yes|
|Option to log out||No||No|
Messenger can be checked on the web but WhatsApp can not, so in that regard you can still use Messenger without using Messenger. WhatsApp has a very good reputation for delivering messages whereas Messenger isn't so great at connecting or delivering messages. Facebook's Messenger app still needs a lot of work whereas WhatsApp is pretty perfect in its simplicity. Facebook offers some additional features like free voice calling that WhatsApp at present does not, but WhatsApp allows for more file sharing options and customization. Messenger is a small part of a much larger social network whereas WhatsApp is a basic messaging service with no frills. There's actually more differences than similarities.
Neither of these instant messengers is perfect, and both have spotty security histories. But both have a huge following and that is their strength – chances are all of your friends are using either one or both of these services. While there are other, better featured messenger apps available they simply do not have the same reach. It seems unlikely to me that Facebook will mess with the WhatsApp recipe for a while, but monetizing that service will surely come sooner or later (at the moment neither service has ads). The decision really comes down to whether you want a service tied to your social network or to those friends whose phone numbers you have – or both. Or you can go AWOL entirely and find a smaller service with better features and encourage your friends to start using that.
Do you use either or both of these services? Has Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp made you consider alternatives?