Why developers want to be on WhatsApp so badly

27 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook F8: How Messenger will change customer service.

Facebook has kickstarted F8, its annual developer conference. 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.When Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at Facebook’s F8 developer conference on Wednesday, he announced its “biggest strategy shift in many years”.

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. Attendees at this year’s F8 were greeted with a splashy tent-filled venue full of colorful lights, sounds of a carefully curated playlist, and piles of food around every corner. 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. If that wasn’t enough, day one’s announcements and technical sessions were topped off with custom Patagonia vests and a Deadmau5 concert as a parting gift to the developers who paid nearly $500 to attend. Facebook, which spent about $24bn on acquisitions last year, including buying messaging app WhatsApp for almost $22bn, has long rejected claims that it could become a conglomerate in the mould of consumer goods groups such as Procter & Gamble.

Messenger will feature more than 40 different apps in the next few days, allowing users to send each other sports clips, animations and other items, Facebook said. But swag, snacks and a free concert aside, for many developers the biggest news of the conference was Messenger Platform: Facebook’s ambitious plan to turn Messenger into a massive hub of content along the lines of the chat apps that dominate in Asian markets. Zuckerberg told the crowd. “It’s just not fast or convenient and it definitely doesn’t feel like the future.” Facebook plans to revamp its Messenger app with a suite of new features that will allow businesses to give personalized online service to customers. 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. While there was never any indication Facebook had plans to introduce one, many developers at Wednesday’s closing keynote were clearly disappointed when WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton effectively shut down any hopes developers may have still had on the subject.

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. But as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram continue to grow, with monthly active user numbers swelling to 700 million, 600 million, and 300 million respectively, Facebook has proved that naysayers know nothing about what people want from the apps they use every day. 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. 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. If you let in third parties who might, “inundate users with messages they don’t want,” it would come at the cost of that user experience, he reasoned.

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. 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. Analysts believe Facebook could charge for its new Messenger for Business service, and how the service begins to monetise its offering could be copied by WhatsApp. The hard stuff is handled. “We looked at it as a model for success,” Acton said. “We were able to have the confidence that our partnership with Facebook would work well.

We had an alignment of mission in terms of connecting the world’s population.” (Left to right) Moderator Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with Brian Acton, cofounder of WhatsApp; Mike Krieger, cofounder and technical lead of Instagram; and David Marcus, VP of messaging at Facebook. For that seamless messaging experience Acton described as “most sacred.” “Implementing chat features is hard, especially when it comes down to sharing pictures, sounds etc.,” London-based iOS engineer Kevin Mindeguia explained to Mashable. “It’s actually one of those features you try to avoid as a developer, because of it’s complexity.

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. 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. Having a ready-to-use API and an SDK would save us great time and money.” In short: WhatsApp features could enable the kinds of experiences developers can’t yet achieve with Messenger. 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.

So WhatsApp isn’t concerned with Messenger’s forays into payments and platform. “We continue to develop our products independently,” Acton said. “Platform is not top of mind for us. 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. The F8 conference was the first time co-founders of WhatsApp and Instagram, and the head of Facebook Messenger appeared on stage together to discuss their relationship with each other and Facebook proper. We share ideas, technologies, and infrastructure, but there’s no strong competition.” Is it possible that Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp will eventually become a communication monolith, a feature-loaded app that lets you message friends, make restaurant reservations, and pay your rent without ever leaving Facebook? Though he admits he would love to be on WhatsApp, he says he understands why the two are separate. “Over time some of the things they’re so focused on will enable richer experiences,” Spiridellis predicts. “Connectivity and hardware, those are the two things that are making sure whatever device you’re on, whatever kind of network connectivity you have, you’re going to have that great core experience.” Until that happens though, developers better not hold their breath.

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. 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. Facebook was often criticized for cramming too many features into the big blue app, and so it started spinning off new ideas (and a few old ones) into stand-alone apps. The same goes for Messenger, which opened its platform to third-party apps on Wednesday to give people options like GIFs and memes without adding a whole mess of features. “We could’ve built a lot of those capabilities in Messenger and made it slower and less reliable, and we didn’t want that,” Marcus said. “We want messaging to be super fast, reliable and dependable, but at the same time want people to have those creative tools.

So my question is: when are we going to see them bicker?” Facebook may also have more control over Messenger because it is home grown and headed by David Marcus, whom Mr Zuckerberg hired from PayPal. Discovery is in Messenger but the content you share on Messenger isn’t created in the app.” And developers aren’t too happy about it, but WhatsApp’s mission to make its app stable for every mobile platform around the world is keeping the company from releasing an API. Opening it up to developers might not break those promises, but it could ruin the simplicity of the app that its founders have always prized — and alienate users. Mr Acton suggested it could add more features in an “intelligent and thoughtful fashion” if users demanded it but stressed that there were no plans to follow Messenger’s lead any time soon. He added, however, that whatever Mr Zuckerberg said about Facebook being a family, it was really following the holding company model used by most advertising agencies — and it was right to do so. “The consumer brand matters,” he said. “You want to keep the brand attributes somewhat different.

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