Facebook Messenger is getting down to business. There's a roster of new features coming to Facebook's messaging platform, with a particular push for users to gravitate to bots — digital conversationalists that provide users what they need.
The push for bots is laden with elements of discoverability. As such, Facebook is launching two new significant features that'll help bots achieve more presence: a bots Discovery tab and Chat Extensions.
Messenger Bots Discovery Tab
The Discovery tab on Messenger is essentially a bot store, helping users find useful bots, in addition to viewing ones they've used most recently.
There are bot categories available to browse, trending experiences, and bot search. The great thing about this is its ease of use. Users don't need to download a bot to use it. Instead, they can catch a preview of it in action, just to see what it does. Developers are required to submit bots with preview information if they want to be included in the curated tab.
Messenger Chat Extensions
Chat Extensions on Messenger, on the other hand, lets users take advantage of bots inside group chats, making these assistants more visible to a number of users all at once. There are plenty of things to play around with, such as co-creating a Spotify playlist, watching a sports game's play-by-play, and other activities.
Suggestions From Messenger Assistant 'M'
For the uninitiated, Messenger recently rolled out "M," a digital assistant which pops inside messages from time to time, ready to serve users who might be in need of assistance.
M learns from the context of a certain conversation. For example, if you and your friend are planning where to dine out, M pops in, suggesting for restaurants in hand. Need a friend to pay back a loan? M pops in as well, encouraging you to use Facebook's own payments feature.
M will also begin suggesting appropriate third-party bots for a number of situations, gleaning of course from the context of the conversation. Examples above already hone the point of M, but where it shines is the fact that both ends of a conversation get used to M the longer they spend time with it. That presence can give it a lot of traction going forward, and this in turn can lead to more developers jumping on the bot bandwagon.
Scanning QR Codes With Messenger
Users can already scan unique Messenger codes through the app, but the feature is limited to adding people. Now, Facebook is expanding QR code scanning, letting users scan special codes which connect them to branded bots.
Messenger now also supports turn-based play, which can lead to slightly more dynamic in-app games. Messenger is also adding a special tab for games on the homescreen for easily finding fun little time-wasters.
It's clear that Facebook is pushing bots as the natural evolution of Messenger. With bots, Messenger ceases its exclusivity as a messaging platform, and proves that it can do a whole lot more than just send messages, send stickers, or make voice and video calls.
The new features are crucial few steps toward an enriched messaging experience, but it's worth noting that they took a while before getting here.
Facebook launched Messenger bots last year, but for the most part, users ignored them, in addition to finding them buggy. Possibly even worse, some didn't even know they existed at all. David Marcus, head of Messenger, joked about it onstage at the Facebook F8 conference Tuesday, April 18.
"I'm glad we called it a beta," Marcus said.
Thoughts about Facebook's new features related to bots? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!