Facebook to Beluga: "Call Me Ishmael"
Beluga, one of many cross-platform group messaging apps that have come along in recent months to challenge RIM's BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) dominance, was acquired by Facebook today. As of now, Facebook intends to keep Beluga functioning as a stand-alone product. But, clearly the plan must be to integrate the messaging features from Beluga into the core Facebook apps, because currently, Facebook has the worst messaging client around. And yes, the title is a tad misleading, but you get the idea.
Facebook's chat interface is more primitive than what ICQ launched with 15 years ago. But, instead of continuing to provide a lacklustre messaging solution to its users, they decided to buy up one of the more promising companies in the field. Beluga has an iOS app and an Android app available to download right now. They were also working on a BlackBerry app, but I doubt we’ll ever see that hit the market now. But fret not Blackberry users, you can still be a part of the fun by visiting Beluga's mobile site.
As an Android user, it's good to see someone taking the lead in this area. While every Android phone comes pre-installed with Google Talk, there isn't sufficient knowledge of the product for it to be widely used. It's a shame too, because Google Talk is exactly what people want. A cross-platform messaging app that just works. iOS users still have to use the mobile website for the official client, but since Google Talk uses a standard, there are many 3rd party options in the App Store. With a web-interface that is built into your email account, a downloadable client, and an app in almost every market, Google Talk should have market dominance by now. But, as with most Google products, it's only the enthusiasts who use it regularly.
That leaves the door open for Facebook and its new baby, Beluga to step in and become an instant leader in the market. 600 million active users will do that for you.