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October 24, 2018

Facebook’s new Messenger redesign began in a South Jersey basement

A student at Rowan University helped nudge the company's app in a new direction

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Facebook's new Messenger 4.

Facebook is rolling out the newest version of its Messenger app – which has 1.3 billion users – over the next few weeks. Chances are good someone reading this story is one of those users.

An app with that kind of reach would, you’d imagine, only be re-designed by enormous teams at Facebook’s pristine Menlo Park, California, headquarters.

But this time, the re-design was inspired by a Rowan University student in his parents’ South Jersey basement.

Christian Dalonzo had interned with Facebook during a pair of summers, and the tech giant decided to hire him after the summer of 2015 despite his return to New Jersey to finish his education at Rowan, according to Wired. He moved into his parents’ basement and would videoconference into meetings from the wrong side of the country.

Dalonzo started drafting ideas for the new Messenger design, called Messenger 4 by Facebook, in November of 2016. At the time he was working on a substantially smaller problem, according to Wired, when the ideas rushed in. Dalonzo pitched concepts to the company, and they encouraged him to keep at it.

"I started playing with how to make things feel a little bit more bubbly, a little bit more playful, a little bit more friendly,” Dalonzo told Wired.

The following spring, the head of the redesign team decided to merge Dalonzo’s work with what they were doing in California. Dalonzo then moved to California after graduating in May of 2017 and continued the redesign alongside his coworkers.

And now, thanks to some basement tinkering by a 23-year-old, Facebook’s newest product is ready for 1.3 billion pairs of hands.

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