Facebook just quietly launched a major update on the Messenger platform

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In a little over a month, Facebook’s developer conference f8 will be taking place in San Jose, CA.

All eyes will be on Facebook’s Developer conference, as the company is expected to make some big announcements. Two weeks ago, Facebook released the Facebook Messenger platform v1.4 and it already shows the shift in directions regarding their approach to Messenger.

The goal from Mark Zuckerberg to connect all kinds of businesses with the over a billion Messenger users is nothing less than creating a new operating system. iOs and Android with its apps are running the mobile world, but Facebook with both platforms — Facebook platform and Messenger — is in a good position to create one app to rule them all, because of its high penetration.

WeChat got a 3 year head start on messaging integrations. It already is the messaging platform for China that Messenger is striving to become for the western world. Most of the online-offline services, including e-commerce, transportation, payment and many more are integrated and most used over WeChat.

Bearing this in mind “Business on Messenger” attracted thousands of engineers and entrepreneurs. They developed over 40.000 bots and created one of the biggest (media) hypes in 2016.

Bearing this in mind “Business on Messenger” attracted thousands of developers, entrepreneurs to develop chatbots and created one of the biggest (media) hypes in 2016.

But despite the hype, Facebook is not in a rush.

After the launch of “Business on Messenger“ and early difficulties Facebook continued to improve the platform. New features for the integration of chatbots rolled out every few weeks, and Facebook was in quite open discussions with many developers in Facebook groups. The pace was so fast that many developers and start ups had difficulties integrating all the features and improvements in their products.

Besides the ambitious timeline for integrating chatbots in Messengers as the business to customer connection, Facebook also launched instant games in November of 2016. The viral basketball game 🏀 for f8 was demonstrating the potential of HTML5 minigames in Messenger, and with the update Pacman x y z, many more were following.

The third integration in Messenger

The latest update of Business on Messenger came as unexpected to many. The Facebook Messenger platform v1.4 release includes several updates providing a sneak peak into what will be presented at f8, but the most interesting update was the “enhanced menu structure.”

The enhanced menu structure contains multiple changes. The persistent menu got upgraded from a small helpful feature to a very prominent persistent menu with submenus right in the middle of the chat interface.

Example Guardian: The new persistent menu is enlarged by default.

In addition to the new persistent menu and maybe even more important: the message input field can be now disabled.

With a menu instead of a message input field and web view, Facebook is basically creating a new integration on Messenger: instant apps.

The conversational interface is challenging. For many developers, brands and entrepreneurs the field of AI and NLP is quite new. As a result many chatbots were providing bad experiences. Instant apps are addressing this problem.

Instant apps makes sense for use cases in which chatbots with a conversational approach are not working, because of technical challenges in the field of AI and NLP or because of a simplicity that doesn’t require a conversation at all.

Business on WeChat, which started years earlier, is almost entirely based on a conversational interface with buttons and webview only, for the exact same reasons.

So now there are three different types of Messenger integrations: (conversational) chatbots, games and instant apps.

Facebook is rather a user (data) driven company than interested in rushing to create new experiences based on gut feelings. So it’s quite likely that we will see a lot of continuously rolled out changes and other experiments on Messenger very soon.

How Facebook will handle the three different types and which ones work best for which use case will be for sure one of the most important question for and after f8.


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