May 3rd 2017

Facebook Messenger’s latest update can find food, bots and more

Facebook Messenger has 1.2 billion users around the globe and 60 million business users, all sending a staggering 2 billion messages.

Delving into Artificial Intelligence, or AI, Facebook has announced some significant new developments at its F8 conference in April 2017.

Though society is fast becoming used to rapid tech updates, the social media giant’s latest release is still pretty astounding. Facebook Messenger users will now be able to pay bills, find restaurant recommendations and connect with messenger bots using the app.

‘Messenger bots’ are specially created, AI-powered apps which can perform tasks based on what you ask them to do.

Like with apps, developers are able to create bots which carry out various functions and services.

David Marcus, Messenger’s product manager, announced that more than 100,000 developers had signed onto the network’s bot platform. Apple Music, the Wall Street Journal, Spotify, and others are set to join too.

So how will users find these new bots? Facebook has thought of that. It is launching Messenger Platform 2.0 with a collection of tools such as new Discovery tab, showing featured bots, trending bots, relevant categories and a search bar. Alongside this, Chat Extensions will let bots come into group chats – for example, the OpenTable bot can book restaurant reservations, and the Spotify bot can share music with a whole group chat.

Facebook has long been at the forefront of business communication, with its business Pages able to list opening hours and details – and now they will be able to automatically respond to questions about directions and contact details.

And what’s this about ordering food? You heard correctly, Facebook has plans for its AI-powered assistant to suggest restaurant recommendations and Deliveroo.com orders through conversations which discuss food. So be careful when chatting to your friends about that pizza craving, or you may find one delivered to your door.

Marcus said “I really believe you have everything you need to take the Messenger experience to the next level.”

So, is this really a plan to enhance the end user’s experience, or simply a new platform to monetise Facebook? Cynics might argue that this new step is simply a plot to draw yet more advertising revenue with the latest form of marketing. Facebook has already revolutionised the digital marketing platform, with eMarketer reporting that digital ad spending will surpass TV Ad spending by early next year.

Whether you consider in-Messenger bots to be an advanced communication feature or a little too close for comfort, there is no denying the impressive imagination and potential of this latest release.

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