Earlier this week, Facebook was rumoured to be buying messaging app WhatsApp Messenger. Now it looks more like it’s hoping to kill it.

How? Facebook updated the Android version of its standalone Facebook Messenger app yesterday with a new feature: the ability to use it without a Facebook account. “Starting today, you can create a Messenger account with just your name and phone number, and start messaging your mobile contacts,” explained the company.

To say this is a surprise for Facebook is an understatement: its mobile apps have always functioned as powerful drivers for people to sign up to and get deeper into the social network.

Initially, the new signup feature will only be available in a few countries including India, Australia, Indonesia, Venezuela, and South Africa, but TechCrunch claims it’ll be going global in the near future too. It’s a fairly direct broadside at WhatsApp, which has become the world’s most popular standalone messaging app in recent years.

It remains to be seen whether this is a sign that Facebook has decided not to buy WhatsApp but to bury it (or that WhatsApp has refused to sell, of course), or whether it’s part of a hardball negotiations process to drive down any acquisition price.