Facebook is doing all it can to make Messenger the world’s go-to messaging app.
To accomplish that, the social media firm has introduced third-party extensions and a Discover tab to help Messenger users find useful automated services, otherwise known as bots.
“We think of Messenger as being like the new social living room for the world, where people can hang out, share, chat, play games or buy things, while still being able to reach nearly everyone, wherever they are,” Messenger vice-president David Marcus said.
“We wanted to find a way to make it easy and simple for people to find the businesses they care about in Messenger.”
The Discover tab allows users to find recently used bots, popular experiences and a free-form search field. The functionality is rolling out to select users in the U.S. this week.
Messenger’s new third-party extensions enable a number of people to chat with the same business at the same time simply by adding a bot directly to a group thread.
“If you are excited to share the newest song you love, you can now add a bot directly in a group thread and share the conversation and experience with your friends,” Marcus said. “We think that this will enable people to virally share bots. You can currently find favorite brands like Spotify, TheScore, OpenTable, Food Network, NBA, Wall Street Journal and Kayak — with many more on the way.”
Other changes to Facebook’s messaging platform include Messenger codes and a revamped M, Messenger’s digital assistant.
Messenger codes are parametric QR codes that give users the ability, when at an event such as a concert or basketball game, to find out more about it via a Messenger bot. The users would simply scan the code in the Messenger camera.
M, which Facebook began testing back in 2015, has been updated to make suggestions to the user’s conversations.
“Powered by artificial intelligence, M recognizes when people are doing specific tasks and provides helpful suggestions,” Marcus said. “We think the next step is to offer people more ways to do more – so today M can now offer the ability to order food through delivery.com. If you’re chatting with friends about what to grab for dinner, M may suggest placing an order. The whole experience can be completed in Messenger, including group ordering and payment. The more you use M, the more it will make relevant suggestions to you.”
The delivery.com functionality is only available in select U.S. cities.
For developers and businesses, Messenger now offers Smart Replies for Pages. Pages can now respond to frequently asked questions, such as business hours, directions and contact details, thanks to Messenger’s AI bot engine, Wit.ai. To take advantage of the functionality, businesses must create an AI-powered responder to FAQs.
Facebook is also giving businesses a way to work with multiple developers for different experiences on Messenger with its hand-over protocol tool. For example, a business may want both a personal shopping bot and a customer service bot.
“Different vendors and developers will be able to manage the conversation for the use case the customer is requesting,” Marcus said. “We hope that Messenger Platform 2.0 will enable our developer community to enhance experiences, leverage the power of AI and build more bots to help businesses connect in more meaningful ways.”