Facebook Is Testing Ad Placement on the Messenger Home Screen

Also trying out a 'Stories' feature for the flagship app

Facebook users might soon see ads in another part of the coveted digital real estate—the Messenger app.

This week, the company started testing ads that show up on the Messenger's home screen. The ads, which for now are being tested on a "very small" scale in Australia and Thailand, appear below users' recent conversations, similar to how the platform might remind them of someone's birthday.

In a blog post today announcing the news, Facebook product manager Eddie Zhang said users won't see ads within conversations unless they click on them and start conversations with brands.

"Businesses have long been telling us that they are very excited about the potential of the Messenger platform to reach their customers and help them to drive sales, build brand awareness and increase customer satisfaction," Zhang wrote.

According to Zhang, the addition could provide a way for users to easily find relevant businesses that are active on the platform while also letting brands target users with promotions. While the update might seem like further intrusions to users, Zhang said businesses still won't be able to message them directly unless they initiate an interaction.

Direct messages have become big business for Facebook. In November, the company began letting brands brands promote their Messenger bots in news feeds via targeted ads. A report last year by eMarketer predicted Messenger would have more than 105 million users in the U.S. by the end of 2016. (According to Facebook, more than 1 billion messages are sent between people and businesses via Messenger each month.)

Today, Facebook also made updates to its flagship app, introducing Facebook Stories, essentially a clone of Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories that have increasingly become popular on their respective platforms. So far, the feature is only available in Ireland, and reports have called the update a "test" rather than an official rollout.

The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the Facebook Stories rollout.