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Facebook testing Messenger feature that could signal the end of friend requests

Facebook is reportedly carrying out a Messenger experiment that brings the app even closer to a standalone messaging service.

The social network has confirmed that it is testing an “add contact” feature on Messenger. The function will allow the messaging platform’s 1 billion users to request connections without the need to become friends with the selected person on Facebook, reports BuzzFeed.

At present Facebook users can already send message requests to people they are not connected with, and those requests also appear within Messenger. However, the new feature ties in with Facebook’s efforts to transform Messenger into your smartphone’s default messaging service. This strategy emerged in April, when the company revealed that it was planning to remove the ability to send messages within its flagship mobile app.

Related: Which says its best? iMessage vs. Facebook Messenger vs. WhatsApp

In June, Facebook reintroduced the integration of SMS support on Messenger for Android, another indication that it was intent on pushing the messaging platform beyond the confines of its massive social network. Later that same month, some Messenger users began complaining that they were receiving a confusing prompt urging them to set Messenger as their default SMS app. However, SMS integration isn’t currently available for Messenger on iOS, due to what the company termed “technical difficulties.”

It remains to be seen whether the “add contact” feature will be available across operating systems. Facebook told Digital Trends that this is a “small test” with the aim of improving “the user experience on Messenger.” It did not share any details in regards to the wider roll-out of the function.

Aside from messaging, Facebook has also introduced other notable features to its comprehensive messaging app. In July, the platform began to support Instant Articles, allowing users to read web articles via Facebook’s faster-loading mobile pages directly within the app. Additionally, the company is also working on bringing its very own digital assistant — “M” — to the service.