INNOVATION

Facebook Messenger Wants To Be Your New Social Living Room

Soon, you won't even need to leave the app.

20/04/2017 9:35 AM AEST | Updated 20/04/2017 12:54 PM AEST

Prepare to start hearing that chirpy, slightly irritating yet satisfying 'ping' from Facebook Messenger more than you're used to.

Facebook's chat app is changing, and it wants to be your one-stop shop for everything from restaurant bookings and news headlines to finding that pair of 90s 'flatform sides' that just made a comeback.

One year after the launch of the Messenger Platform which introduced us to bots, the company announced 'Messenger Platform 2.0' at its annual developer conference.

We think of Messenger as being the new social living room for the world, where people can hang out, share, chat, play games or buy things, while being able to reach nearly everyone, wherever they are.David Marcus

With it comes a strong emphasis on connecting consumers with brands, businesses and developers without needing to leave the app.

What is a bot?

In case you're wondering, a bot is a general term for any form of software that can perform a simple task for you. Bots are imbedded artificial intelligence, for example speech-to-text processing, that can seemingly automate conversations and interactions.

This is not to be confused with the term 'chatbot'.

"We never called them chatbots," Messenger boss David Marcus said at the conference on Tuesday. "We called them bots. People took it too literally in the first three months that the future is going to be conversation."

And they're not replacing apps, either.

"What we're doing is very different," Marcus said.

So what's new with 'Messenger Platform 2.0'?

To start with, a whole lot of new bots. 100,000 of them, up from 33,000 in September last year.

Now reaching 1.2 billion people every month, Facebook Messenger's goal is to be "the new social living room for the world, where people can hang out, share, chat, play games or buy things, while being able to reach nearly everyone, wherever they are," Marcus said.

"Last year we set the foundation to create an ecosystem of developers and learned and iterated our way into finding what works. Now that we have enough developers and enough businesses responding to messages -- 65 million businesses and pages, nearly 20 million of them responding to messages every month -- it's about scale and getting those experiences in the hands of many more people."

A big change is the 'Discover tab', that can be accessed from the Messenger home screen. Users will be able to find their recently used bots and search for new, popular or featured ones.

The introduction of 'Parametric Messenger Codes' will allow businesses to utilise multiple QR codes when users are out and about. At a sport match? You can now order a drink by scanning the Messenger Code on the seat in front of you.

And then come a range of chat extensions, like extending bots to groups to enable group chats, share music, order food or split payments.

Excited about a new song you're loving? Messenger will now let you add a bot directly in a group threat and share that conversation with your Facebook friends. Get ready to see brands like Spotify and Open Table joining the party.

This could just be the beginning.

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