Functional problems plague Facebook Messenger

Don't bother with this half-baked Facebook chat program.

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends, and that chat feature is especially useful; you can chat with everyone from your best friends and colleagues to high-school classmates and far-flung relatives. If you don't want to always have your browser open in order to use Facebook's chat feature, there are a variety of clients that let you take chat and other Facebook features off the Facebook Web site. Unfortunately, Facebook Messenger is not the best option for this. Although the interface looks good, functional problems make this program hard to recommend.

Our first hiccup came when we tried to install Facebook Messenger and were alerted to the fact that we'd have to install the Java Runtime Environment in order for it to function. So we did that and then tried running Facebook Messenger again. We liked what we saw, at least at first. It's stylistically similar to the Facebook Web site, displaying a list of available friends with their most recent status update below each of their names. The familiar message and notification icons appeared at the top.

However, once we started chatting with someone, things started going awry. Although the exchange was appearing in a separate chat window, we also began getting new message alerts; each time either we or our chat partner typed something, it appeared as a message in our inbox. We also found the inbox part of the interface to be severely lacking; the inbox displayed parts of conversations with no way to select one and reply, and at one point it stopped displaying the content of messages entirely and just showed the icons of the friends we'd exchanged messages with.

We attempted to consult the Help file, but the little question mark icon on the interface just launched a spammy-looking Web page that contained no documentation. Overall, we think that Facebook Messenger leaves a lot to be desired, and we urge users to choose from the many alternatives available.

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