If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the appearance of dark mode for Facebook on your iPhone, the good news is that Facebook has now admitted that it’s publicly testing the feature, which means it should be starting to arrive for a much larger number of users very soon.
While we first heard about the arrival of Facebook’s Dark Mode back in June, it seems that the social media giant wasn’t kidding when it said that it was only testing it with “a very small percentage of people” globally, leaving most users sifting through Twitter to get a taste of what the new mode will look like, rather than being able to experience it for themselves.
This earlier testing was seemingly fairly random, however. As with how Facebook normally rolls out new features, it doesn’t appear to have selected a specific testing group, and so a number of users were surprised this past summer when their Facebook app suddenly went dark, but of course this left pretty much everybody else wondering why Facebook was the only app on their iPhone that still hadn’t embraced its dark side.
A Slow Fade to Black
Although Dark Mode landed on the iPhone and iPad when Apple released iOS 13 over a year ago, it actually gave developers the frameworks to adopt Dark Mode back in June of 2019, and there were plenty of apps that were ready to go dark on the very day of the iOS 13 release in September. Even Microsoft had its Office apps ready to go, along with a huge collection of other popular iOS apps.
This made it all the more bewildering when tech giants like Google and Facebook — both of which almost certainly have the engineering resources to accomplish something as relatively simple as giving their apps a new coat of paint — appeared to be dragging their heels. Gmail took several months for Dark Mode to appear, since it was clear that Google was controlling the entire process from the back end, switching it on for a few users at a time, and it appears that Facebook has followed a similar pattern at an even more glacial pace.
The problem is that iOS apps like Gmail and Facebook are really just “web wrappers” — apps that basically just present content delivered from their respective websites in an iOS-friendly format. In other words, almost all of the content and even the design elements in these apps are actually being delivered from Google and Facebook’s servers, rather than being contained within the app itself. So in other words, Google and Facebook don’t create a new iOS app with Dark Mode support, but rather have to redesign their web pages on the back-end to deliver dark mode to their apps.
This is the main reason why not everybody sees these changes at once; two people can be running the exact same version of the Facebook app, on identical iPhone models, with identical iOS versions, and see two entirely different Facebook user interfaces. It’s not just Dark Mode either; Facebook has been doing this for years with their iOS app designs.
What’s even more ironic in Facebook’s case, however, is that its Messenger app has had its own dark mode since before iOS 13 even came out in beta, yet the social media giant seems to be struggling to get a dark mode ready in its main Facebook app.
Now, to be fair, there’s more to making dark mode look good and work properly than just inverting a bunch of colours, since it’s important to pay attention to things like contrast, and foreground text and images to make sure everything looks good, as you can’t just turn everything into a photographic negative. Even Gmail’s Dark Mode suffers from this when reading many emails, which is probably why Apple’s own first-party Mail app doesn’t even try to render HTML formatted messages in Dark Mode, presenting them instead in whatever colours the original message was composed in.
The good news, however, is that it looks like Facebook is finally ready to start flipping the switch for a whole lot more folks. We’re seeing many more reports on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media services indicating that Dark Mode has begun appearing in users’ Facebook apps, and app researcher Jane Machun Wong has not only confirmed that Facebook’s Dark Mode is finally beginning a full rollout, but she actually made a video in collaboration with Facebook communications manager Alexandru Voica demonstrating what the feature will look like.
Of course, as we’ve already discussed above, none of this guarantees that you’ll have the feature yet — Facebook is still rolling it out gradually — but it does bring renewed hope that it should be coming to your iPhone sooner rather than later.
How to Enable It
It’s worth noting that Facebook won’t necessarily tell you right away if Dark Mode is available to you or not; at least some users have only found it after digging into their Facebook app’s settings, so here’s how to check if Facebook’s Dark Mode is available to you, and to switch it on if it is:
- Ensure you’ve updated to the latest version of Facebook from the App Store.
- Open the Facebook app.
- Tap the three-line “More” button in the bottom right corner of the screen.
- Scroll down and select Settings & Privacy.
- Look for a Dark Mode button between Your Time on Facebook and App Language.
- Tap on Dark Mode and choose between On, Off, or System.
“On” and “Off” are fairly self-explanatory, while the “System” option will tell Facebook to follow the iOS-level Dark Mode schedule and setting.
If the Dark Mode option isn’t appearing there, that means you don’t have Dark Mode yet, and sadly there doesn’t appear to be any tricks for forcing it to appear — in this case it looks like you’ll just have to wait your turn, but you can certainly keep checking back to see if it shows up.