This is Facebook's Big Future for Its Messaging App

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Facebook announced a slew of updates to the Messenger app yesterday at its F8 developer conference, including new third party tools and business communication features.

The big takeaway is that Messenger is essentially becoming its own platform with Facebook opening up the messaging service’s API available to third-party developers. The social network has been working with a number of partners to develop new functions for Messenger that will allow users to share content through the app with the the click of one button.

Previously if you had a page or a link that you wanted to share with a friend, you would need to tap share, select Messenger from a list of apps on screen and then finally share. Facebook is now taking all of the grunt work out of the way to make the sharing process much more seamless for users, especially those becoming increasingly impatient.

Dubbed Messenger Platform along with the Messenger App Store, developers can now create their own apps to integrate with the messaging service and move the app beyond text or emoji chats. “We’ve been building Messenger as a way to express yourselves in more than just text,” said Mark Zuckerberg during his keynote speech yesterday.

Users can enhance their conversations with GIFs, audio clips, and video, says Facebook. “With Messenger Platform, an app’s content can be shared through private and group messages to spark conversations that are creative and expressive, while providing developers with growth and reengagement opportunities,” says Facebook product manager Lexy Franklin.

ESPN, Giphy, and The Weather Channel are among the 40 developers that have been involved ahead of launch, providing new content like video clips.

Businesses on Messenger

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Facebook also previewed the new “Businesses on Messenger” feature, a new means for people to communicate with businesses via the app.

Facebook is targeting the new feature at mobile shoppers in particular. Once a customer has purchased something from a business’ website, they can opt for further updates from the company through Messenger and “continue their conversation with the business.” Some of these updates include order confirmations, shipping status, returns, or delivery tracking.

The platform will also serve as a sort of customer service tool to interact with the company for more information on products and services. It’s not uncommon for business websites to have live chat options for customers to contact it with complaints or queries; but keeping everything within Messenger makes the whole process much quicker and fluid for the customer rather than seeking out its website.

Facebook says it has a couple of partners already in the can, such as retail outlets Everlane and zulily, it but doesn’t provide any further details. However, if you look at the Messenger Business page, you’ll find a reference to FedEx too.

FedEx seems like the perfect kind of company to partner up with Messenger for these new business features if it chooses to do so. While many businesses will likely find new and different ways to utilize the platform, ordering, tracking, and delivering goods seems to be its prime target and a company like FedEx stands to benefit from that. We may as well expect to see companies like UPS or DHL follow suit soon.

Making things more fluid

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Messenger Platform and Messenger Business may seem like two very different announcements yesterday but they have one key thing in common—making everything more fluid. Users can integrate new content into their Messenger chats quicker without leaving the app while customers can use it to message businesses following a transaction without opening up a browser to find a store’s website and contact details. In many ways, Facebook is trying to take some more steam away from traditional email too.

Crucially with Messenger Business, Facebook will get even more insight into what you like and what you spend your money on, giving the social network swathes of new valuable data. This data will have a huge effect on the ads you see and the content that populates your news feed. It will raise new concerns over privacy but, for example, customers can opt in to receive their order confirmation through Messenger. If you’d like to keep your online orders somewhat private then using Messenger isn’t advised.

Slowly but surely, Facebook and specifically Messenger in this care are taking over more aspects of your online life and how you communicate, by ultimately centralizing everything to Facebook products in one way or another. Messenger no longer feels like an extension of Facebook either. Yesterday’s F8 announcements feel more like an attempt to make Messenger stand on its own and compete directly with other messaging apps like Snapchat and Line.

Facebook will likely attempt to woo even bigger media partners (in the vein of ESPN that it already has) to join in on Messenger’s new frontier and provide even more audio and visual content.

There’s really only one other big question left on our minds: what are Facebook’s plans for WhatsApp?

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