Chat bots were the focus of Facebook Messenger strategy three years ago. Now they are no longer displayed together with games and companies in the app. Facebook Messenger is now removing the Discover tab because the focus is on speed and simplicity, not a broad utility like China's WeChat.
The changes are part of a larger messenger redesign that is reorienting the People tab in Stories as Facebook continues to try to dominate the short-lived social media format it copied from Snapchat. By default, the People tab displays a full-screen sub-tab with friends' stories. You need to tap the Active subtab to see which friends are online now.
The changes could result in users spending more time visually communicating with friends and consuming content than exploring chat bots to shop, connect with businesses, and play games. This, in turn, could help Facebook make more money with Messenger now that story ads are running.
theinformationsuperhighway was made aware of the redesign by Jeff Higgins, director of social media, who provided us with extensive screenshots of the update. These show the absence of the "Discover" tab, the switch to the "Chat" and "People" tabs and the "People" subtab for "Stories" and "Active". We rummaged around a bit and noticed that the options for instant games and transport were missing in the chat composer's taskbar. It used to offer quick Uber and Lyft hail. Messenger's M suggestions also no longer recommend the transport function.
When we asked Messenger about the changes, a spokesman confirmed that this redesign would be introduced soon. Remove Discover and split the People tab. Some users already have the update and more will likely get it this week. They found that Facebook announced last August that it would finally discontinue Discover, and that the additional emphasis on stories was motivated by user affinity for the short-lived social media format. They also told us that transportation was removed in late 2017 and the removal of instant games from the composer is part of the migration to Facebook gaming announced last July.
Chat bots, businesses, and games are hidden, but not completely banned from Messenger. They are still available when users search for them using the Messenger search bar, pages and ads on Facebook, buttons to start conversations on corporate websites, and the m.me URL that creates QR codes that are used for business accounts in Messenger be opened. The spokesman diplomatically claimed that businesses are still an important part of Messenger.
Without advertising through Discover, however, companies have to rely on their own or paid marketing channels to gain a foothold for their chat bots. This could prevent them from building on the messenger platform.
The rise and fall of Facebook chat bots
The update appears to be the end of a four-year era for Facebook. In 2016, it saw artificially intelligent chat bots as a way for businesses to scale with people, provide customer service, and drive e-commerce. But when it launched the chat bot platform at its F8 conference this year, it was half-baked.
The type-based semantic user interfaces were confusing, the AI required to make chat bots appear human (or at least reliably understand that their human interlocutors hadn't yet developed), and some of the starting partner bots like Poncho The Weather Cat were ridiculously useless. The public was angry with chat bots, and attempts to improve them felt inadequate.
Messenger launched Discover in 2017 in the hope that free advertising and visibility could convince developers to invest in creating better chatbots. But at the beginning of 2018, Facebook even resigned and stopped planning to build a full-service personal assistant called M who could be asked for anything. Instead, only AI suggestions are made for various messenger functions to be used, e.g. B. Stickers or reminders based on your input. Last year it was announced that instant games from Messenger should be moved to Facebook's special gaming tab.
It is still possible to use chat bots to gather initial information from people with sales or customer service requests. Everyone hates handling this stuff over the phone, waiting on hold, and wading through touch-tone menus. The use of asynchronous messaging makes communication with companies considerably easier. I bet Facebook will continue to push this as a business use case for messengers. However, this usually still requires somebody in the loop at some point, and these are more structured than reactive utilities that users are looking for than experience that is proactively promoted by a Discover tab.
Now that Discover is disappearing, Messenger seems to be giving up the fight to become a WeChat-style monolithic utility. In China, WeCat not only serves as a messaging app, but also as a payment method to call a taxi, book flights, top up your mobile data, take out a loan, find accommodation or shop in companies using mini programs.
While this centralized all-in-one style suits Chinese culture, Western markets have seen greater unbundling with different apps developed for each of these use cases. Facebook's constant data protection scandals and increasing antitrust control have also prevented this approach from Messenger. The users and the U.S. government were unwilling to trust Facebook to handle so much of our daily lives. Facebook Messenger also has to compete with competitors like iMessage and Snapchat, who could undercut it if it gets too bloated.
So Messenger is now going in the opposite direction. It is becoming more and more similar to WhatsApp – simple, fast and geared towards peer-to-peer communication. Visual communication through stories, to which replies are sent as messages, seems to be a natural extension of this focus and at the same time offers a convenient way of monetization. If Messenger can be the best place to chat in its class without being burdened with advertising for chat bots and businesses, Users may remain trapped in the Facebook ecosystem.