One of the nice features of Facebook Messenger is that is shows when people are available or not. Except when what it shows is wrong, which appears to be happening a lot. Check out this rapidly growing – an unanswered officially – thread at Facebook Community Help about the issue. Here are a few choice quotes:
This has also happened to me.
Fell asleep at 11pm.
Girlfriend thinks I am up to no good as it says that I have been active between 11.30 – 12.
My boyfriend and I broke up because of this
Sometimes it’s good because you think “oh thank God, he was online 14 min. ago, so he wasn’t hit by a truck!”, but other times it’s “hey WTH is he doing on FB mobile at midnight when he told me he went to bed at 10pm?”
So what’s happening here? Here are my guesses:
- Facebook Chat in the browser has no uniform way of determining the idle state of the host machine or browser.
- The Facebook Messenger app can’t signal that it’s idle either, because most mobile OSes kill apps or place them on standby at will to conserve power.
- Mobile data connections are relatively tenuous compared to conventional LAN connections. This means that a mobile client may fade in and out of connectedness despite the user being active.
- Facebook Chat’s infrastructure doesn’t distinguish between API calls from Facebook clients and 3rd party apps using a Facebook account. This means that you could appear to be online solely because a web service that uses your Facebook credentials pinged Facebook’s servers. Combined with point #1, it means Facebook might assume a user is online solely because their browser is on a Facebook page, despite them not being at the computer.
- The sheer number of users and clients (each Facebook user can have an unlimited number of clients) is too much for Facebook to track accurately in real-time
Of course, with no official word, the above are just shots in the dark. However, for now, just bear in mind that Messenger presence may just be flat out wrong, and don’t take people to task over it.
UPDATE: Google Hangouts has added presence info in a recent update, so we’ll probably be seeing this issue with it also: