Facebook Messenger tests ditching Android 11’s bubbles for chat heads

Google introduced the new Bubbles API with the second Android 10 beta, and the API was initially offered as an opt-in feature for developers, with Google urging them to test the API in their apps so that the supported apps were ready when the feature finally rolled out as a part of Android 11 Developer Preview 1. Facebook Messenger was one of the first apps to officially support the Bubbles API, but it appears that the company may be phasing out support for it. Facebook Messenger is one of the few apps that makes use of the Bubbles API outside of first-party Google apps like Google Messages.

Multiple users on /r/Android spotted that the Android 11 Bubbles have stopped working in recent versions of the app and have been replaced by Facebook Messenger’s chat heads. I can also confirm that Bubbles have disappeared from my friend’s Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, and they have been replaced with chat heads. Chat heads are what Facebook Messenger used to use for accessing conversations in an overlay, and existed long before the Bubbles API was introduced.

From my own testing, it appears that this is likely a server-side switch. I installed the latest version of the app, version 331.0.0.0.28, and still had Bubbles. My friend, who is on 328.2.0.18.118, has chat heads now instead of Bubbles, despite using an older version of the app.

Facebook Messenger’s chat heads may currently be the subject of A/B testing from Facebook in order to discern whether or not users have a preference, or it may be an indication that the company is looking to phase out usage of the Bubbles API entirely. Either way, it doesn’t seem that all Facebook Messenger users have chat heads back, but that a sizable portion does. If Facebook is testing ditching Android 11’s Bubbles entirely, then it will be the removal of one of the only major apps that actually makes use of it.