Facebook Announces New Messenger, Opens Platform to Devs


At its F8 developer conference this week, Facebook revealed Messenger Platform in a bid to spice up personal communications. It also showed off Businesses On Messenger, which will give companies new and useful ways to interact with customers.

Messenger Platform is a bold step for Facebook. Until this week, Messenger was a straight-forward messaging application permitting Facebook users to contact one another directly. It already supports groups, pictures, video, emoji, phone calls, and video chats. By opening it up to developers, Facebook hopes to encourage an entirely new and entertaining way for people to communicate with one another. 

Messenger has about 600 million monthly users, which represent about half of Facebook's global user base. Facebook's own WhatsApp service boasts 700 million monthly users, but Facebook is going to keep WhatsApp out of the Messenger Platform for now. Even so, 600 million potential users is a solid opportunity for app writers.

Developers will be able to create apps that are available from within the Messenger app itself. It will include a storefront or sorts. Facebook is initially targeting fun types of apps, such as those that let people create silly GIFs, videos, photo clips, audio, and more. The company has separate SDKs for the Android and iOS platforms, and it appears as though the web version of Messenger will have some limited app functionality as well. The company is offering a solid set of developer resources here, which include platform guidelines and policies, brand guidelines, and tutorials to walk you through the review and publishing process. 

Facebook has selected 40 apps that will have access to Messenger Platform first. Some of them include ActionMovie FX, Bitmoji, GIF Keyboard, Meme Generator, Sound Clips, and the Weather Channel. Developers not in the initial batch of 40 can start developing for Messenger Platform today, but it's not yet clear when Facebook will allow you to publish. Facebook didn't say much about monetization. 

In addition to Messenger Platform, Facebook debuted Businesses On Messenger. This tool targets companies that regularly interface with the public, such as e-commerce sites, or even your favorite local restaurant. Facebook thinks its users would often prefer sending businesses messages to making phone calls. Businesses on Messenger is the toolset needed to enable your company to reach customers through Facebook's messaging application. Potential usage scenarios include responding to requests for info, sending receipts, shipping, or delivery notifications, and dealing with customer service issues.

Businesses On Messenger is going to launch in a more limited way. Facebook is going live with a small handful of partners first. Developers and businesses interested in trying the platform need to sign up here. Facebook didn't provide details about APIs, SDKs, or any other tools available for the service.  

Image Credit: Facebook.com

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