How Zuckerberg Is Feeding His Facebook Conglomerate

29 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook F8 conference: 3D spherical video will now be in your newsfeed, messenger as a platform and more.

San Francisco: Facebook’s Messenger app is evolving into a multitasking tool equipped to send an animated fist bump to a friend at one moment and then get a little business done in the next. Facebook has launched its first home-made apps for its Messenger Platform after Sound Clips (iOS/Android), Selfied (iOS/Android), Strobe (iOS/Android) and Shout (iOS/Android) went live.At its annual F8 Developers Conference yesterday morning, Facebook launched the Messenger Platform, bringing new integration and methods of information sharing (read: GIFs) to the company’s messaging experience.Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Messenger Platform, describing it as a way for software developers to boost appeal to the more than 600 million people using the application. “We think this service has the potential to allow people to express themselves in new ways… and to be an important communication tool for the world,” Zuckerberg said at the California-based company´s annual developers conference that ends Thursday in San Francisco.Facebook Inc on Wednesday opened up its Messenger service for developers to create apps and for shoppers to communicate directly with retailers, as the Internet company seeks to expand its reach.

Mark Zuckerberg likes to say that he’s willing to bet big on things with no immediate payoff — whether dropping $19 billion on WhatsApp or beaming Internet access to developing countries through drones.If you want to find out details about a local business, such as what its hours are or whether it has a particular item in stock, you probably look first on its website or social media page. Facebook executives introduced more than 25 products and tools tailored to help developers “build, grow, and monetize” mobile applications aimed at the social network´s audience of approximately 1.39 billion people. The new features mark Facebook’s latest effort to transform its mobile messaging service into a full-featured platform with the same pull with consumers and businesses as its flagship 1.4-billion user social network. But the Facebook founder and CEO has been unwilling or unable to apply this same go-for-broke mentality to a goal crucial to his company’s future: persuading people to buy stuff directly through the world’s largest social network.

By the end of April, Messenger will also be adding the ability to display store receipts and shipping information to help consumers keep track of their interactions with merchants and other businesses. The U.S. company showed off Messenger as a channel for business-to-consumer communication and a platform for third-party developers’ apps at its F8 event this week, but it also has its own collection too.

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. That is much like Line, the chat app company from Japan, which offers a range of camera and utility apps (and also games) to complement its core messaging service. The company is funnelling more resources than ever into Messenger, pumping it up with new features that it hopes will ape the success of Asian peers like WeChat and LINE. You’ve already got more Messenger power-up options than you likely need, so we sifted through pile to see which ones deserve a place in your phone in the gallery above.

One of the Messenger upgrades was designed to build on Facebook´s move into e-commerce by weaving chat threads into purchases at websites, essentially turning formerly impersonal Internet shopping into ongoing text message conversations. “We´re making Messenger a place where you can easily communicate with the businesses you care about in addition to the people you care about,” Zuckerberg said. The e-commerce move comes a week after Facebook unveiled a way to use Messenger for peer-to-peer payments, and with the social network testing a “buy” button to allow users to make purchases directly from their Facebook pages. Among the first apps will be those from ESPN and The Weather Channel. “This is just the first step toward creating better sharing experiences across this whole family of apps,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on stage at the conference.

The Businesses on Messenger program will let companies chat in real time with customers, send order-tracking information, and give customers interactive receipts tied to their orders. Most of those services will host ads or cost users money, and as those business models solidify on Messenger, Zuckerberg can migrate the few that work best onto the likes of WhatsApp and Instagram. Messenger chats between customers and shops are meant to provide conversation-thread context to buying things; tracking shipments, and handling customer concerns.

Facebook has amassed a collection of mobile apps in recent years, including photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for $19 billion in 2014. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted the Messenger expansion Wednesday to about 2,000 app developers at the opening of a two-day conference in San Francisco. “We have been building Messenger into a service to express beyond text,” Zuckerberg said. Over time, Zuckerberg wants Messenger to become something that looks more like an operating system than an app, hosting everything from games and entertainment, to payment services and business transactions — all on mobile.

In other words, the strategic priorities for both companies is to continue to milk the ad well dry — this time through digital video versus website banners and search results. That way, users can share videos, photos, music, and other kinds of media more easily, and can create their own GIFs or special-effects videos to share with friends. Even when you strip out the size disadvantage Facebook’s main app has next to Messenger, the latter still has more Internet users actively using it (8.7%), compared to the Facebook app’s 7.4%. Facebook partnered with online retailers Zulily and Everlane to let consumers contact them directly on Messenger to change online orders, such as the color of a shirt, for example, and be notified when a purchase has shipped.

Mobile video ad revenue in the United States will exceed $4.4 billion in 2018, according to BI Intelligence, up by a five-year compound annual growth rate of 73 percent from 2013. Stickered was released last December and, as we wrote then, it lets you add stickers to your photos, which can then be shared to your Facebook profile or sent privately to friends using Messenger. And those numbers don’t even include mobile purchases. “Commerce is worth way more than content,” said Marc Weiser, founder and managing partner of RPM Ventures, an early-stage investing firm with offices in Ann Arbor, Mich., and San Francisco. “If you can monetize that commerce, we’re talking about some explosive growth.” And as retailers continue to build out their social media efforts, the need to convert millions of eyeballs into paying customers remains ever present. Facebook Messenger, which is a separate product from the mainline Facebook app, currently has 600 million users, and the company hopes this new focus on developers will push that number even higher. Facebook’s other partners include Giphy, Imgur, PicCollage and others, so there’s no need to rely on Facebook’s home-cooked range for your entertainment.

Unlikely suspects like the Weather Channel—which wasn’t available at the time of our testing—will continue to put a unique spin on traditional photo sharing, in this case by overlaying weather conditions. While the spherical video doesn’t really make much difference on your flat screen monitor, watching it using the VR headset will ensure a 360 degrees spherical video feel as if you are right there. In fact, a recent survey of retailers by financial services firm CIT found that “finding ways to use social media to drive sales” was the top social media obstacle. Facebook’s revenue last year surged 58 per cent to $12.5 billion (Dh45.8 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. Line, WeChat and others have expanded into more useful, service-related integrations and it will be interesting to see if (and when) Facebook brings more meaningful experience into Messenger.

Last year Kik also introduced official accounts for businesses, allowing them to host chat bots on the app that hold automated conversations with users – a strange but growing form of advertising. In mid-2014, Facebook acquired video advertising firm LiveRail to make video ads a bigger part of its business, and now the company has started implementing it. Summoning an Uber, buying from Amazon, or ordering a Postmates pick-up from inside the app could make for a pretty compelling experience, particularly in the U.S.. Facebook also appears to be be using Messenger as as a testing ground for similar features that will eventually migrate to other subsidiaries like Instagram and WhatsApp.

WhatsApp’s founders have long shunned advertising as a route to making money through its 700 million active users, but the way that plays out depends on how they define advertising. Spherical videos, such as those produced for virtual-reality headsets, are filmed with several cameras simultaneously to cover the user’s entire field of view. A large segment of WhatsApp’s audience is located in less affluent countries outside the US 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.

Facebook and Twitter not only need to develop the right interface and software for payments, shipping and tracking, but also enlist enough retailers to make social commerce work, Koo said. 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. 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. 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. WhatsApp’s role is gradually solidifying into one of a modern day communications utility to rival our current perceptions of what a phone company should be.

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