These days, most people get by just fine without a desktop IM app, thanks largely to Facebook Chat and Google Talk in Gmail. Sure, there are still multiprotocol apps out there like Adium, Digsby, Trillian, and Pidgin, but the days of single-function messengers are largely gone. So why, in this day and age, would Facebook want to release a desktop app?
Beats me. What they already did was brilliant. They realized, along with Google, that you and your friends were already there. They built IM right into their sites, and in doing so signaled the death knell of services like AIM and Yahoo! Messenger. No more did you need to have a separate app, and no more did you have to say “my AIM screen name is buttlord69”. If you were Facebook friends or Google contacts, you were ready to go.
That this comes out on the heels of Apple’s Messages beta makes it even more strange. Seamless SMS integration between desktops and smartphones with additional IM support is the way of the future, and validates having an app. Hell, if I was still an iPhone user I’d be all over it. As it stands, I’m on Google Talk and Voice, and you have to think that they’ll follow suite with Apple and consolidate those as well, forming their own SMS superchat hybrid.
So let me steer it back to my original question: does Facebook really need a messenger application? No, not if all it’s going to do is offer a desktop client for the web-based service. If you really needed a constant Facebook connection, Trillian has been offering it for several years now, and offers way more functionality. Straight up single-protocol IM is old hat, even if you can check your timeline with it. Come on Zuckerberg, quit wasting your time on crap like this and get to work on a tablet-optimized app for Android. People might actually want that.