Facebook declares phone numbers obsolete as Messenger hits 900m users

8 Apr 2016

As Facebook Messenger reaches hits 900m users, it has released new tools for businesses that it believes will hurry the demise of the phone number, including new scannable codes

Marking the milestone of hitting 900m monthly active users, Facebook has declared that phone numbers are almost obsolete and released a slew of new tools aimed at connecting consumers with businesses in a different way, including scannable Snapchat-like codes, usernames and Messenger links.

In another sign that OTT players like Facebook and Google are eating the lunch of mobile operators over whose networks their services run, Facebook is enabling consumers to reach out to businesses and start conversations without dialing a number.

Already, services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp enable users to effectively skirt around SMS and phone calls with free data messaging and VOIP calls.

Marking the 900m monthly active user milestone, Facebook said: “Starting today we are taking another step forward in delivering a new solution to the more than 900m people who use Messenger every month. Phone numbers aren’t necessary, and you don’t have to be friends on Facebook.

“Since traditional phone books are almost obsolete, we’re making it easier for you to find the people (and businesses) that matter to you and be able to start conversations immediately with the launch of a simple set of tools that are built for the modern world – Messenger Codes, Messenger Usernames, and Messenger Links. We’re starting to roll these tools out today.”

Facebook is all business in war on phone numbers


The new Messenger Codes are images that are in fact virtual business cards that can be scanned and immediately used to start a conversation.

Each image is a unique code that can be used in ads or virtually any marketing channel from posters to TV that can bring users to a Facebook page where they can start a conversation with a business owner.

Facebook has also launched a new Usernames feature within Messenger, giving each business page a unique username with an @ symbol in front of it, equalling them with vanity URLs that also exist on Facebook. Ultimately, it reinforces the idea that businesses can use their Facebook pages as their main internet destinations, an idea that is no doubt an anathema to domain name resellers.

Finally, Facebook has launched Messenger Greetings, which are customisable notes that businesses can put in a user’s message thread, bringing direct marketing to a whole new level.

Only time will tell if users find this intrusive or useful.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years