At F8 today, virtual reality may be next phase of social networking

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook reshaping Messenger into multitasking tool to address challenge facing social network.

Gaming execs: Join 180 select leaders from King, Glu, Rovio, Unity, Facebook, and more to plan your path to global domination in 2015. CEO Mark Zuckerberg gestures while delivering the keynote address at the Facebook F8 Developer Conference Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) (The Associated Press) CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the Messenger app during the Facebook F8 Developer Conference Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in San Francisco.Facebook has turned its chat app, Messenger, into a platform that can integrate third-party apps, letting people send rich multimedia messages, such as GIFs, stickers, and videos. In a demo on stage at the social network’s developer conference yesterday, David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging products, showed off the customer service experience over Messenger (see above). With order and shipping information sent directly to the chat app, customers no longer have to dig up old emails or log into their accounts just to talk to customer service representatives.

Here’s our latest rundown of the themes we’ll be discussing at the summit, which features fireside talks, keynotes, networking time, and small roundtable discussions in the beautiful atmosphere of the Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif., on May 5 and May 6. They’ll even be able to place orders (“I really like this shirt, can I get one in another color?”) over the app and confirm their purchases by hitting the big blue thumbs-up button. “This turns support into a revenue-generating center rather than what many people perceive as a cost center,” Zendesk’s director of product, Jason Smale, tells Quartz. Zendesk, which is powering the first two business integrations for the online retailers Everlane and Zulily, shared the following screenshot, showing the other side of the interaction. Interactive Entertainment; Peter Levin, the president of interactive media and games at Lionsgate; John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies; Jeff Lyndon, cofounder and president of iDreamsky Technology; Yoichi Wada, CEO of Shinra Technologies; Jacob Navok, senior vice president of Shinra Technologies; and Misha Lyalin, chief executive of Cut the Rope creator ZeptoLab. The push to diversify Messenger addresses a potential threat to Facebook’s ubiquitous social network posed by a variety of mobile messaging maps offering more intimate and direct ways to connect with friends.

Overall, people who contact support teams using live chat tend to be happier with their interactions over those who do so over email, says Smale. “We take that to the next level with Messenger,” he says, noting that the company is also exploring integrations with other mobile applications. Since Messenger’s introduction four years ago, Facebook already has added the ability to attach video, share videos, swap stickers, make phone calls and send money.

Facebook’s revenue last year surged 58 percent to $12.5 billion, a performance that has enabled the company’s stock price to more than double from its initial public offering price of $38 in 2012. That threat is propelling Messenger’s expansion and also prompted Zuckerberg to spend $22 billion last year to buy WhatsApp, another mobile messaging service that has more than 700 million users.

A large segment of WhatsApp’s audience is located in less affluent countries outside the U.S. and western Europe, making it more likely that it won’t be adding as many new tools as Messenger has, said David Marcus, who oversees Facebook’s messaging products. Most Messenger apps are installed on iPhones and top-of-the-line Android phones, which provide the processing power needed to handle a range of multipurpose tools. Analysts widely expect Facebook to begin showing ads with Messenger as people spend more time in the app to do different things, though the Menlo Park, California, company hasn’t revealed plans to turn the app into a marketing vehicle.

The decision to allow outside applications to operate within Messenger mirrors a pivotal decision that Zuckerberg made eight years ago when he opened Facebook to other programmers. How are various studios reaching the balance right for them in budget, manpower and resources between creating the game itself and integrating the supporting infrastructure of services? Marcus, who formerly ran PayPal, is hoping Messenger will follow a similar pattern now that it is operating as an open platform. “We have opened the floodgates,” he said.

Distribution platforms, from mobile app stores to Steam, have accelerated the growth of the entire market and provide global exposure to any developer. Facebook is counting on apps from other developers to enable Messenger users to express their feelings with GIFs, audio clips and other dynamic formats that “will bring a smile to people’s faces,” Marcus said. In his presentation, Zuckerberg predicted messaging apps eventually will include virtual-reality technology, something that Facebook acquired last year when it bought Oculus for $2 billion. Celebrities, movie studios, and other franchises owners are rushing into the market to license their IP and profit from the now ripe mobile gaming market. While top brands are able to design their own games, most decide to offer relevant rewards within games, or engage in natural interactions the same way they are adopting instant messaging marketing.

The best monetization strategies mix advertising and in-app purchases across elaborate audience segments and a commitment to agile and consistent optimization guarantees maximized returns to the publishers. But as it increases its mindshare in mainstream culture, it also has to reconcile “hardcore” gamers with the more casual population playing on mobile and adapt to wider and more diverse demographics. Smart monetization strategies have turned the most successful studios into powerhouses in their own rights, attracting the attention of the traditional entertainment industry, consumer brands, and overseas giants.

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