Well, we knew it was bound to be a big day for Messenger news with Facebook's developer conference F8 kicking off, and it has so far been just that. Within its first hour, Facebook made a slew of announcements about Messenger and otherwise.
In short, Messenger is about to become a lot more than most people are used to. It's going to be a communication path for many more businesses and people are going to be interacting with artificial intelligence a whole lot more. Both of these scenarios will often be simultaneous.
At last year's event, Facebook announced Messenger Platform, but now it's getting a full beta launch, and with it, businesses and developers get tools to build their own chatbots to interact with people.
You can use bots and live-messaging tools to create custom experiences for customer service, e-commerce or whatever you come up with. These experiences can be integrated with Messenger plugins (buttons for your site, emails, etc.), or Messenger codes and links introduced last week.
Facebook is allowing for customer matching so what you've been sending through SMS can now be sent through Messenger. There's a tool that lets you match optex in customer phone numbers to a messenger account.
Soon, there will be the ability to buy News Feed ads that will take people directly to your bot in Messenger. According to the company this will help with new users acquisition as well as retention.
The company showed off three bots from early partners including Spring, Poncho, and CNN.
Messenger lead David Marcus demonstrated buying a pair of shoes through Messenger with Spring. He specified what kind of shoe he wanted, his price range, and was presented with a carousel of results to choose from. This is a clear illustration of how this could be a game changer for ecommerce.
"I can guarantee you you're going to spend way more than you want with this," Marcus said. "It's really addictive."
He demonstrated Poncho the weather cat, a bot that has a "dry and witty" sense of humor that it uses to give you weather info in a fun way. He says it feels like a real conversation.
They're experimenting with ways businesses can reconnect with people, but are giving users the ability to block businesses as well.
The company launched a new Send/Receive API that's available today to help you build bots. For more complex bots, they're opening up a tool called Bot Engine based on what it has learned from "M" to enable you to build high-end self-learning bots.
Some companies are already announcing their new offerings resulting from all of this. SparkCentral announced a customer care agent, for example. Salesforce announced the Salesforce for Messenger Platform.
"Together, the companies are empowering companies to engage their customers through dynamic experiences around products, brands and moments—all connected to their business," the company said. "Powered by Salesforce Lightning, the proven platform for more than 150,000 companies and millions of users, Salesforce for Messenger will deliver personalized engagement at scale with CRM data."
You can get started building your bot with the documentation and resources available here. There will of course be sessions on all of this at the conference, and Facebook is making some sessions available online at the F8 site.
Facebook also discusses the news more in a blog post here.