Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook Announces New Messenger App, Discovers That Not Rebuilding System Frameworks Makes Apps Simpler

Facebook Engineering:

We started with the premise that Messenger needed to be a simple, lightweight utility. Some apps are immersive (video streaming, gaming); people spend hours using them. Those apps take up a lot of storage space, battery time, etc., and the trade-off makes sense. But messages are just tiny snippets of text that take less than a second to send. Fundamentally, a messaging app should be one of the smallest, lightest-weight apps on your phone. With that principle in mind, we began looking at the right way to make our iOS app significantly smaller.

[…]

In the end, we reduced core Messenger code by 84 percent, from more than 1.7M lines to 360,000. We accomplished this by rebuilding our features to fit a simplified architecture and design. While we kept most of the features, we will continue to introduce more features over time. Fewer lines of code makes the app lighter and faster, and a streamlined code base means engineers can innovate more quickly.

I mean, it’s great that Messenger isn’t gigantic any more, but anyone could — and did — point out that rebuilding system features is terribly inefficient. Kudos; but, also, duh.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Did Facebook just kill off React Native? Either way, it’s funny that I actually agree. We write all our hybrid shells with the native platform tooling (and then fill them with server-rendered HTML using Turbolinks!). Full control to level up UI to native.

Josh Constine, TechCrunch:

Chat bots were central to Facebook Messenger’s strategy three years ago. Now they’re being hidden from view in the app along with games and businesses. Facebook Messenger is now removing the Discover tab as it focuses on speed and simplicity instead of broad utility like China’s WeChat.

I cannot find a clear answer confirming whether Messenger was at all written in React Native. But, just a few years ago, both React Native and Messenger Bots were being pushed hard by Facebook. Now, it seems like the company is being more circumspect in its tacit acknowledgement that neither is so wonderful. Neither is dead, however.