22 / November / 2019

Facebook Messenger wants to be the new Yellow Pages

Facebook Messenger wants to be your one-stop shop for... everything.

Want to check on your flight or buy some Nikes? The social network hopes you'll never leave its chat app.

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled new features for Messenger that aim to give people more ways to communicate with businesses but cut out the tedium -- like talking to customer service people. Facebook made the announcements at F8, its annual software conference in San Jose, California.

"People prefer to use Messenger to interact with companies," David Marcus, head of Messenger, said during the conference Tuesday. "I mean, who likes to call companies?"

One of the new features is a tab called "Discovery," where you can find new, popular and featured bots from brands like CNN, Nike or the NBA. ("Bots" are software that can automatically perform simple tasks for you, like taking an order or making a reservation.) You can also find bots from nearby restaurants and businesses that let you can order food or book an appointment.

Facebook also said it's introducing new QR codes that you can find when you're out and about in the real world, like at a sporting event or concert. If you scan the codes with your phone's camera, a Messenger bot will be able to give you more information. For example, Facebook partnered with the Golden State Warriors to have QR codes at the team's arena that will unlock new fan experiences for people at the game, including ways to get highlights, merchandise and parking information.

"We're the de facto white pages of messaging apps," Marcus said in a briefing last week, referring to its scale with 1.2 billion people using it every month. "We have a shot of becoming the Yellow Pages of messaging apps."

Over the last several years, Facebook has tried to turn Messenger into its Swiss army knife of apps -- a place where Facebook could experiment in several different markets, from payments to food orders. In our interview, Marcus likened the app to a "playground" for Facebook.

With all the new features Messenger has amassed recently, it now competes on several different fronts. Messenger Day, its version of Snapchat stories, competes with Snapchat. Its payments feature takes aim at Venmo. Now all of its local business tools compete with Yelp and Foursquare.

And that could just be the beginning. Earlier this year, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off a digital smart home butler he built as a personal project, he used Facebook Messenger to type in commands. Marcus declined to discuss the possibility of Messenger as a smart home tool.


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