Facebook adds more tools for businesses to Messenger

The new developer tools will help Facebook create the organic experience between businesses and customers that it's striving for before ramping up monetization efforts on Messenger.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Facebook on Thursday is rolling out a series of new business and developer tools for Messenger, its next step in building out the business ecosystem in the messaging platform.

"It is still early on the monetization side," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday regarding Messenger and WhatsApp, Facebook's other messaging platform.

"I want to see us move a little faster here, but I'm confident that we're going to get this right over the long term," Zuckerberg continued, on Facebook's Q2 earnings conference call. "The biggest strategic thing that we really need to do in messaging right now is make it so that people organically interact with businesses and that that is a good interaction both for people and for the businesses."

Facebook rolled out version 2.0 of the Messenger Platform just this past April that laid the groundwork for natural business-to-customer interactions. Version 2.1 includes new features that should help developers build the more organic experience Facebook is striving for.

The new features and tools include:

  • Built-in basic natural language processing (NLP): When Built-in NLP is enabled it automatically searches for meaning and information in the text of messages that a user sends to a bot. This first version of built-in NLP can detect seven key entities, including hello, bye, thanks, date and time, location, amount of money, phone number and email.
  • A new version of hand-over protocol: The updated version lets developers build multiple experiences within a single bot. For instance, a business could use this to move seamlessly from an automated (bot) to a one-to-one (human) conversation. Hand-over protocol is now available globally as an open beta.
  • New SDK for better payments experience: This should enable customers using Messenger webview to pay using a one-step process. Payments on Messenger is still in beta and available in the US only.
  • More Facebook Page buttons for Messenger: Facebook is adding five new Call to Action (CTA) buttons that businesses and developers can add to their Facebook Page to drive people to their Messenger experience. In addition to the currently available "Send Message" CTA, businesses can now add: Shop Now, Get Support, Get Updates, Play Now and Get Started.
  • Desktop support for Extensions SDK: This new feature will extend functionality across mobile and web, creating a more consistent experience across devices. Features like user ID and sharing, previously only accessible on mobile, will now be available on desktop.

Both Messenger and WhatsApp have more than 1.2 billion monthly active users. While Facebook on Wednesday was specifically highlighting user engagement on WhatsApp, Facebook CFO David Wehner said on Wednesdsay's earnings call that in terms of monetization, "we're further along with Messenger than we are with WhatsApp." The company has started showing ads to a small number of people on Messenger and plans to roll out the global beta of that.

Still, COO Sheryl Sandberg stressed that Facebook's moves with respect to Messenger monetization will be "slow and deliberate."

"Messaging is really strategically important for the company and the long-term engagement with our users, and the organic feel of the engagement with businesses and consumers is where we will be focused," she said. "So it's early days this year, and it's going to continue to be early days for a while."

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