Zuckerberg At F8: Facebook Is A Family Of Apps

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Do Facebook users really want to chat with businesses?.

There are now 600 million people using Facebook’s chat application, Messenger, each month. The new app features third-party apps — allowing users to send gifs and other kinds of posts — as well as attempting to take on email by allowing users to communicate with shops and other companies through the platform.SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – 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 announced a series of features and updates at its annual F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, and while the news is mostly targeted for developers and app designers right now, it could eventually mean big things for Facebook users. The update appears to be a continuation of Facebook’s aim to keep more people on the network, wrapping up functions that used to require external tools into the site’s own offerings.

Messenger is one of several standalone consumer-facing apps in Facebook’s portfolio, which now includes Instagram (photo-sharing) and WhatsApp (mobile chat). 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.

Facebook executives introduced more than 25 products and tools tailored to help developers “build, grow, and monetise” mobile applications aimed at the social network’s audience of approximately 1.39 billion people. 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.

Perhaps the biggest update unveiled during Zuckerberg’s keynote is that Facebook Messenger — the social network’s chatting tool — is becoming a massive communications hub, where users will be able to do much more than chat with others via the service. The social network will also allow developers to find out who is using their apps, whether most of their games are played by a male or female, are these gamers teenagers and so on. The biggest strategic shift for Facebook FB -2.59% has been creating a family of apps for its users, Zuckerberg said on Wednesday, rather than shove ever more features into its namesake app. Facebook emphasised that Messenger allows all of that information to be collected in one thread — which it says is better than email, where messages can be lost and split apart.

But with the new Messenger Platform announced Wednesday at Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference, you can send any content created within an app integrated with Messenger to your friends without leaving Messenger. Messenger has matured into a multipurpose tool—users use it to dispatch messages, photos, and videos between them—that functions as the social fabric that connects users on the Facebook network. Zuckerberg and his team are betting that people want to use Messenger for all kinds of transactions—as a conduit to call people, for example, or 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.

These are apps that I wouldn’t think to use every day, but if they’re easily accessible when I’m sending messages—a context where GIFs, song clips, memes, and funny videos make the most sense—then I’d be more apt to dig into them more. And all of those interactions lack any real, natural communication, says Marcus. “Commerce is conversational,” he said, speaking to software developers at the Fort Mason Center. More apps are coming on board soon, according to Backchannel, including one from L’Oreal that would let you give your photo a virtual makeover and share the image with friends for their critique.

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. The company introduced a new Analytics for Apps tool that provides a dashboard of data so developers and marketers can better understand their audience. From there, a mobile push notification and an opportunity to continue the conversation—from gleaning shipping information from UPS to modifying an order or purchasing another good—within the Messenger app. (Businesses see a customer service portal powered by Zendesk.) Engaging the buyer at the point of sale was purposeful, Marcus said, because there is a high probability at that moment that the user is willing to interact with the brand. “It’s reintroducing personal back to shopping,” he said. “This is about creating rich content and interactions between people and businesses.

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. Facebook introduced a software developer kit (SDK) to support the growing influx of web-connected devices for the home, like smart garage door openers and refrigerators. You could imagine that in the future, a customer could have have multiple threads open with businesses that you care about, and you could transact and buy things.” You can start to see the opportunity that Facebook detects: hotel confirmations, flight updates, bank account alerts, all within Messenger. 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. For now, Facebook is targeting partnerships with larger businesses, says Marcus, because their customer feedback tends to be faster and more consistent.

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.

When I recently spoke with Facetune cofounder Itai Tsiddon, he told me that Facebook’s app install ads were a significant driver of growth—in fact, Facebook uses Facetune as a case study for how install ads can immediately boost an app’s popularity. They collect data about your usage patterns and habits, and typically connect to an app that offers feedback to improve your lifestyle (or your racquet swing, for example). 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. For Marcus and Facebook, the quality of the experience will be key. “If you want to change people’s habits, you need to provide them with something that is meaningfully better than what they have,” he said.

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