With Messenger, Beluga’s future up in the air

Facebook Messenger, the new mobile app Facebook launched Tuesday, was built by a team of engineers led by the three co-founders of Beluga, the group texting app startup acquired by Facebook in March.

But could this launch mean the end of Beluga as its own standalone app? Beluga is still available on its own for the time being — but from the looks of it, that may not last for long. In a series of emails sent Tuesday, a Facebook spokesperson told me:

People are still currently able to use Beluga. They operate as separate apps though. …We’re still determining next steps for Beluga. Keep you posted in the future if we have more details to share.

Facebook Messenger is certainly promising, but Beluga has attracted an enthusiastic and loyal following of fans including our own Om Malik, who named Beluga GigaOM’s “App of the Day” back in February 2011. It would be a bit sad to see Beluga go, but with the new debut of Facebook Messenger — a fully featured project that has been the top priority for Beluga’s founding team for nearly six months — it would not be especially surprising. We will make sure to report on Beluga’s fate as soon as we learn more about it.