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The goal of Facebook’s new messaging client is to simplify private communication, but as it turns out, executing that has been astoundingly complicated.

Facebook announced and began rolling out the new version of Messages in November, and even now, the company has yet to activate the feature for all of its more than 500 million users.

Reaching everyone could take several more weeks, said Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook director who oversees product development. At least one-fifth of all Facebook users now have access to the feature, and millions more are added daily, said people overseeing the release.

If Facebook engineers could have flipped a switch and activated the feature for every account simultaneously, Bosworth would have given the order without hesitation, he said.

But the new Messages entails more than just dropping the subject line from correspondences and giving everyone a chic e-mail address.

It’s an amalgamation of very different communication media. Facebook’s system needed to be able to connect with cellular carriers’ networks for its text messaging component, operate on standard e-mail channels, and interface with instant-messaging conduits.

Once all that was figured out, Facebook developers went to work on promised features that will be added later. One such element is IMAP access, so that people can pull up their Facebook messages from software like Microsoft’s Outlook.

For the Messages project, Facebook assembled a team that consists of 15 to 20 people at a given time, executives said. At the time, it was the largest product-focused group the company had ever formed, they said.


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