Dec. 4, 2012 at 2:00 PM ET
Soon you won't even need to be on Facebook in order to use its Messenger program. Tuesday, the social network said users of Android phones in various countries — not including the U.S. for now — will be able to download the Messenger app even if they're not Facebook users.
The move is one more step by Facebook's messaging program which, like Apple's iOS Message app, could reduce or even eliminate dependence on standard text messaging. The only info users need in order to create a Messenger account is their names and phone numbers, Facebook said on its blog.
For now, the Android Messenger app is being made available in countries including Australia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Venezuela "before making it fully available," a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News. A version for Apple's iOS is also in the works.
The benefit to Facebook of making Messenger available this way is that it gets to tap into a whole new audience, which may at some point join Facebook's 1 billion users.
The free Messenger app was introduced in August 2011 for iOS, Android and BlackBerry as an extension of Facebook messages.
Messenger's new reach comes at a time when text messaging, which just turned 20, remains king, but is being nibbled away by a variety of other options, including messaging within Facebook, as well as social media like Twitter, Foursquare and even popular apps like Words with Friends. In addition, users of Apple's iPhone can use iMessage program to send free text messages to other iOS users.