Facebook reported to be developing a teenager orientated messaging service

The current Messenger app. Picture: Facebook

Facebook is working on  a “teen-oriented messaging service that gives parents more control over whom their kids can contact,” according to a report by Cory Weinberg at The Information. Code found inside Messenger points to an unreleased app aimed at teenagers called ‘Talk’, writes Weinberg.

The code reveals signs of new parental controls that would set it apart from existing app. For example, a reference to unreleased features, written in plain-English text in the code, says: “Talk is a messaging app where you fully control the contacts.” Another command states: “Your child uses the Talk app to chat with you in Messenger.”

Parental controls could deter many teenagers from adopting the app, making it difficult for Facebook to compete with the popularity among young people of rivals such as Snapchat. But it may see an opportunity to appeal to young users who aren’t yet allowed by their parents to have social media accounts.

The Talk app would be restricted to users 13 years or older, according to the code. Facebook and other social apps require users to be 13 years old because of a US federal law that restricts how companies can collect data of young people, albeit may lie about their age. Young users wouldn’t need a Facebook profile to use the app; one code command for Talk says: “Your child will not have a Facebook profile or be publicly searchable”.

Releasing Talk would be part of a push by Facebook, along with other tech companies, to engage users and customers earlier in their lives. The social network expanded its ‘teens team’ to at least 100 people last year to work on ideas that would appeal to the next generation of Facebook users.

The Information extracted and viewed software files that make up the current version of Facebook on the iPhone, which is where it may prompt users to download the new Talk app. “It’s possible the app won’t be released,” writes Weinberg. Last year, The Information published a story on clues to future products in the Messenger code. One feature called ‘Secret Conversations’ was released months later, but an in-store shopping feature seen in the app hasn’t appeared.