Facebook wants its Messenger app to be the be-all-and-end-all of apps.
Over the years, Facebook has added layer upon layer of extra functionality into the Messenger app. Some of these extra features include sending money, sharing location, and playing games with friends. Nonetheless, its core has always been, like its namesake, about messaging.
At Europe's largest tech conference, the Dublin Web Summit, Facebook's head of Messenger David Marcus shared an interesting observation — the number one activity people do online even more than social media is messaging.
"I always like to rewind to what people did before technology. Before the web era, we just had conversations," Marcus recounts.
By detaching the chat function of the main Facebook app and creating the standalone Messenger app, Facebook has stuck to the basics enabling it to more than double its user base from 300 million to 700 monthly active users in just a little over a year. In fact, Messenger is the second-most used messaging app in the world besides its sister app, Whatsapp (which Facebook bought for a jaw-dropping $19 billion) with 900 million users.
The market for messaging apps is getting crowded, however. Over the five largest messaging services — Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, Line, and WeChat — three billion accounts have been created thus far. From the U.S. to Europe to Asia, companies are cramming their messaging apps to be one-stop-shops for everything. Chinese-made WeChat, for example, enables its users to hail taxis, schedule doctor's appointments, shop for groceries, and pay utility bills.
Facebook's strategy is different. Instead of incorporating multiple apps into Messenger, the company wants to get rid of apps completely by replacing them with threads of conversations with actual businesses and services. By having a real conversation with a business, both the business and user can benefit from the context of past conversations since each chat session uniquely identifies with that user only and builds on the relationship.
This is Facebook's Businesses on Messenger layer to its messaging app. Rather than firing up the same app multiple times and repeating the same processes when buying clothing for example, a user opens the chat window and simply says they want another in a different color. That's it.
The next revolutionary step for Facebook's Messenger app is M, the company's own AI. Unlike other AI virtual assistants like Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana, M wants to help users complete tasks and not just give them information. With all the data Facebook already has on its users, M may actually prove to be so useful that we'll no longer need pages and pages of apps on our smartphones anymore.
Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns | Flickr