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Facebook will replace photo sync on mobile with a link to download its Moments app

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Facebook is asking its users to download more apps by taking features out of its main mobile app. The company will shut off the three-year-old auto-sync feature starting next month and will suggest users download its photo-specific Moments app instead, according to a report fromTechCrunch. This change appears to mirror the controversial move Facebook made last year when it disabled messaging in its main app to drive adoption of its stand-alone Messenger one. However, Facebook says the reality of how we share photos on social platforms has shifted to mobile, making a photo syncing feature for its mobile app irrelevant.

"The feature was launched in 2012 when people took photos on their phones, but still posted primarily from computers," Facebook said in a statement. "People that use photo syncing will have the option to move the photos they've previously synced to our new app Moments, where they will be able to view, download, or delete them." In that sense, Facebook sees Moments as a logical extension of how we snap and share pictures today: not by selectively uploading them to another destination and sharing later, but through intelligent algorithms that do the work for us entirely on our smartphones.

Moments may now climb even higher in app stores

Moments launched in June of this year as a way to capitalize on Facebook's face-recognition technology — the same that powers suggested tags — to automatically create photo albums of you and your friends. The app also uses location and date information to group the photos. Unlike Facebook's other more off-beat mobile attempts like Slingshot, Rooms, and Riff, which were all shut down last week, Moments has been steadily rising in popularity on iOS and Android. It's now in the top 10 lists of most popular free apps on both platforms.

Starting January 10th, Facebook will replace its "Synced from Phone" photo album with a notification explaining the change and a link to download Moments. The company will also place a notification at the top of your News Feed with a "Learn More" link doing the same, according to TechCrunch. Facebook says users who don't want to download Moments can download a zip file of their photos from the album before the feature is removed. It's a bold move from Facebook to again ask users to download something they may not want. But past efforts suggest it may be a successful one. Since Facebook ejected messaging from its main app last April, Messenger has remained one of the most downloaded free mobile apps in the world.

Update at 4:40 PM, Monday, December 14: Added comment from Facebook.