Facebook Is Pulling the Plug on Its Human-Powered M Assistant for Messenger Jan. 19

AI-generated suggestions will continue to be available via the messaging app

The original M logo Facebook

M, the human-powered personal digital assistant for Facebook Messenger that never emerged from its limited beta-test never will get to the masses.

Facebook informed users—reportedly some 2,000, all in California—that the service will no longer be available after Jan. 19.

Casey Newton of The Verge reported that contractors that had been working on M will be offered other jobs in the company.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot. We’re taking these useful insights to power other AI [artificial intelligence] projects at Facebook. We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment.”

Scale was clearly an issue, as well: Messenger has more than 1.3 billion monthly users, and having a human-powered assistant at the ready for all of them would have been an impossible task.

AI-powered suggestions from M will continue to be available via Facebook’s messaging application.

Facebook vice president of messaging products David Marcus officially announced the introduction of M in August 2015, saying at the time, “Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.”

In April 2017, the social network began rolling out suggestions from M, which provided AI-powered assistance with tasks in the messaging app including sending and requesting money, getting rides via Lyft or Uber, sharing location, making plans, starting polls and sending stickers.

Last June, Facebook added suggestions for saving content, wishing people happy birthday and initiating voice and video calls, also announcing at the time that the feature was extended to Spain, in both English and Spanish.

Three more suggestions were added last September: GIFs, opening the Fandango Chat Extension when movies were being discussed and quick reply options.

Finally, last November, suggestions from M launched in France, as well as in the U.K. (only for payments-related tasks in the latter).

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.