Facebook just kicked off its annual f8 developer conference, announcing Messenger Platform and Businesses on Messenger. The former enables developers to build apps that Messenger users can take advantage of in conversations. The latter seems to be looking to take over email for business-to-consumer communications.
Facebook is expanding the composer in Messenger to enable users to find more services (apps) they can use to enhance their conversations. You can browse available apps and install them right there.
When you use one of the apps, the person will have the ability to reply with the same app if they already have it installed. Otherwise, they'll be presented with a way to install it right from your message. Or they can just respond their own way. Apps showed off at the event included ones that let you communicate with animated gifs or stylized, animated text.
40 apps are launching right way, but the platform will enable an unlimited amount of them to bring new and interesting ways of communicating into the fold.
Available apps include: Action Movie FX, Bitmoji, Cleo Video Texting, Clips, ClipDis, Ditty, Dubsmash, Effectify, EmotionAR, Emu, ESPN, FlipLip Voice Changer, Fotor, GIF Keyboard, GIFJam, Giphy, Hook'd, Imgur, Imoji, JibJab, Kanvas, Keek, Legend, Magisto, Meme Generator, Noah Camera, Pic Stitch, PicCollage GIF Cam, PingTank, Pyro!, Score! on Friends, Selfied, Shout, Sound Clips, StayFilm, Stickered, Strobe, Tackl, Talking Tom, Tempo, The Weather Channel, to.be Camera, UltraText, and Wordeo.
App content can be shared through both private and group messages.
As Facebook notes, this all presents developers with new growth and reengagement opportunities.
"Messenger Platform apps can display the option for a person to install the app from within Messenger, or to reply using content from the app," says Facebook's Lexy Franklin. "If the person receiving the message doesn't already have an app installed, they can tap Install to be taken directly to the app store to get started using the app. This means people can discover apps recommended by their friends, naturally through their conversations."
"With Messenger Platform, developers may also see increased app engagement," Franklin adds. "If the person receiving the message already has the app installed, they'll be able to tap Reply on an image in a message. Then, instead of scrolling through pages of apps on their phone, they'll be taken directly to the app to reengage and respond with relevant content."
Some apps will have some nice visibility in a new tab within Messenger conversations. This provides shortcuts to apps people have installed as well as some they "might be interested in trying." Facebook says to think of featured apps as an "editorial list of some of the best Messenger integrations."
Facebook wants apps optimized for Messenger to be conversational, expressive, and/or personal, and has guidelines for these traits:
For sharing, Facebook also recommends making your app exclusively for Messenger, limiting sharing actions to Messenger's Send button and Save to Camera Roll, making any editing and composition tools lightweight, minimizing the number of steps between opening and sending, using the Send button whenever you initiate a send to Messenger, and following its brand guidelines.
For replies, Facebook says to land users directly in a content-creation experience if there is one, display content that's relevant to the conversation (and participants if possible), and match the instructions for adding a reply flow in the tech docs. You can find all the necessary documentation from here.
As far as the brand guidelines go, Facebook wants you to accurately describe how your app works in its name, and says to only use the naming convention "AppName for Messenger" only if the app is exclusively for Messenger and the Messenger platform integration has been reviewed and approved by Facebook. More on the review process here.
The company says not to use names that imitate or could be confused with its own trademarks and not to claim trademark rights in "Messenger".
"Your icon should represent your brand," the company says. "We provide a Messenger Platform Icon Badge that may be used in some circumstances, solely to indicate that your app is integrated with the Messenger Platform. The Icon Badge does not represent an endorsement, sponsorship, or verification by Facebook."
They provide a Photoshop template to add the Icon badge to your app icon, but warns not to modify the template or resulting icon in any other way and not to use any other Messenger branding or any of its trademarks.
They also say not to modify their Messenger buttons or use any other buttons to share content to Messenger.
"Your marketing should focus on the unique qualities of your app," Facebook says. "You may also indicate that your app is integrated with the Messenger Platform. However, you may not suggest that you are endorsed or sponsored by us. You may not use the Messenger Logo in your marketing."
Facebook provides Messenger SDKs for both iOS and Android. Those along with all of the guidelines and other documentation can be found here.
Clearly Facebook is aiming to turn Messenger into much more of its own product by enabling new functionalities. The company also announced at f8 that users will be able to communicate directly with businesses from the app. For example, if you place an order online, you can get tracking information and receipts right in message as you would in an email, and if you need to make changes or talk with someone at the company, you can do so right from Messenger in the same thread. This follows the previously announced ability to send payments in the app.
What once was simply Facebook's instant message feature has morphed into its own ecosystem. Facebook plans to do a lot more of this kind of thing too. One of the major themes of Mark Zuckerberg's opening keynote was that they want to let people do more with and share more through the Facebook family of apps. Very little emphasis was placed on Facebook itself.
Messenger currently has over 600 million users.
Images via Facebook