The way they see it, Facebook Groups, which let like-minded users communicate outside of the main News Feed, is an integral part of social network’s future as it passes the 2 billion user mark.
So it may have come as a surprise to see the company quietly removed its standalone Groups app from the App Store and Google Play last week. If the social network is suddenly so into groups, why would it pull the app dedicated to the feature?
In a statement, the company said it made the decision to discontinue the app because “we’ve found that we can do more with and for the community by investing in the main Facebook app.”
That may be the case, but there are a number of other reasons why the app had to go as well.
The app was first launched in 2014, when Groups was already becoming one of Facebook’s more popular features, and it was also around this time that Mark Zuckerberg started talking about “unbundling” the main Facebook app.
The company had already started forcing people over to Messenger, its standalone chat app, earlier that year and, since Groups already had 700 million monthly active users, it was the next logical target for “unbundling.”
But even at its peak, Groups was never as successful as Messenger. It was always optional, for one, so users never had to download it in the first place. Still, it had a large following. It had about 15 million downloads across both app stores worldwide, according to Sensor Tower, and even in its last month in the App Store in July, it managed to nab about 250,000 downloads.
Despite this, it seems at some point Facebook decided to stop putting resources into Groups. The app stopped getting regular updates in the fall of 2016 and, even before then, its App Store reviews were overwhelmingly negative, with users complaining about frequent crashed and bugs making the app unusable.
“I really want to be able to just have this app to keep up with friends and not have to actually go on Facebook. But the app is currently pretty terrible and it drives me crazy,” one reviewer wrote.
That may actually get at the heart of why Facebook decided it had to kill the app it provided too easy of a way for people to use the social network without ever touching the main app. Facebook’s main app and website is where the company makes the bulk of its ad revenue so it’s not surprising they’d want to encourage people to go there rather than a standalone app.
And if Facebook really thinks Groups are such an important part of Facebook’s future success, it needs to send the message that it’s an important part of Facebook’s core service not something people can use in place of it.