Facebook is rolling out a second version of Messenger, with discovery tools, music and many more branded bots.
As a part of Messenger 2.0, music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are building chatbot services to let users listen to songs straight from the messaging app. Facebook, which announced the news today at its annual developers conference, said Spotify will come first, with Apple joining in the near future.
The updates are part of a series of additional features Facebook is adding to Messenger, which is now used by 1.2 billion people every month. One key difference with Messenger 2.0 is the introduction of a discover tool that will help users find and use chatbots that are relevant to them based on their interests and location.
“When you come to think about it, Messenger has become the de facto White Pages of messaging apps,” David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging products, said. “And now, with over 65 million businesses active on Facebook and nearly 20 million of them responding to messages every month—and our 100,000 active bots—we have a shot at becoming the Yellow Pages of messaging too.”
A number of brands and publishers have created bots for Messenger 2.0. For example, Subway’s new bot lets customers order and pay for sandwiches within the app, while Aeroméxico’s first bot helps with booking and other customer service questions. On the publishing side, Food Network’s chat extension helps plan recipes, while one from theScore lets fans pull content from the website right into Messenger.
Facebook first launched chatbots at the 2016 developers conference, which saw the social juggernaut’s entrance into the sector as a sign that chatbots might soon become more mainstream. And while some developers readily admit the technology is still in its early stages, others see Messenger 2.0 and its chat extensions as the next step.
“The reason this next round of bots is a big deal is because real AI is finally being used in chatbots,” said Vince Lynch, CEO of IV.AI. “We got AeroMexico to 96 percent automation because we spent the time crafting the AI based on the data. The new features released on Messenger will help brands better serve users and facilitate more seamless experiences.”
Facebook isn’t the only platform betting on chatbots. Kik, which debuted its own Bot Shop a year ago, has also seen traction. The Canadian messaging app said users have exchanged 2 billion messages with bots in the past year, with more than 20,000 built to date.
“The best chatbots keep things simple and lightweight while helping to improve the messaging experience,” said to Kik founder Ted Livingston. “However, we remain in the early days. The big changes won’t happen until chatbots are integrated with payments. We expect that final piece will come soon, which will make 2017 an exciting year for chatbots.”