Toronto Star

Facebook to expand app menu, take over smartphone screens

Strong demand from users behind move to isolate features, according to social media giant


Like it or not, Facebook wants to occupy several spots on your smartphone’s home screen.

Annoyed that you had to download a separate app, Facebook Messenger, to chat with your friends and family on the world’s most popular social network? Too bad.

Facebook has no intention of reversing that contentiou­s move. In fact, it plans to move more features from its main mobile app into separate apps in 2015.

“We’re getting away from that single app that does everything for you. We released nine different apps in 2014 and I think what you’ll see is we’ll release more in 2015 — at the demand and behest of our users,” says Jordan Banks, the managing director of Facebook Canada and the global head of vertical strategy.

Users “want single apps that do one thing incredibly well. So one of the reasons we took Messenger out of the (Facebook) app and gave it its own stand-alone app is because that’s what our users were telling us. They didn’t want to click two or three times before they got into Messenger.

“So I think that will be a major trend going forward, you will continue to see this multi-app orientatio­n come from Facebook.”

While Banks insists he’s only heard good feedback, forcing users to download a separate app for Facebook Messenger stirred a loud chorus of complaints. On the Apple App Store, there are more onestar reviews panning Facebook’s move than rave ratings.

“I hear everyone talking about how delighted they are that they get one-click access to a Messenger app that has over 500 million people using it,” Banks says.

“And again, the reason we’re going to this multi-app orientatio­n isn’t because we think it’s right, we’re doing what our users tell us they want.”

Facebook says it now has 20 million Canadians accessing the social network monthly and 15 million on a daily basis.

While those numbers are plateauing, mobile usage continues to spike.

There are 16 million Canadians accessing Facebook with a phone or tablet monthly, up 23 per cent from a year ago. About12 million are daily Facebook users on a mobile device, which is up 28 per cent over last year.

“Mobile growth continues to be a major driver of all the good things we’re seeing,” Banks says.

“You’ll see an average Canadian check their mobile device about 40 times a day and we account for one out of every four minutes spent on a mobile device in Canada. So you do that math and you say, ‘Boy, Facebook is a key cog in that mobile wheel.’ ”

Banks says the company — which has offices in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver — intends to grow in Canada in 2015.

“Everybody within the Facebook world is incredibly bullish on the Canadian business,” he says.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg was spotted visiting Vancouver in 2011but hasn’t been to Facebook Canada’s main Toronto office yet.

He’s not big on travel, Banks says, which reflects his focus on using his time as efficientl­y as possible.

He even wears the same style of grey T-shirt daily just so he doesn’t have to think about his clothes in the morning.

“He doesn’t want to use one brain cell thinking about what kind of shirt he should wear, as opposed to what he should be building on Facebook,” Banks says.

“And he sort of feels the same way about travel: his best time is spent with engineers at our headquarte­rs.”

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