Facebook Messenger is adding third-party extensions and a new discovery tab in a new effort to make it users’ primary messaging app. A year after the rocky rollout of bots, Messenger is taking another swing with changes focused on making them easier to find and use. The changes, which were announced at Facebook’s F8 developer conference today in San Jose, could give users another reason to look at bots after their underwhelming debut in 2016.
Changes rolling out on Messenger today include:
- An app store, but for bots. The Messenger home screen has a new tab called Discovery. Tap it and you’ll see featured bots, trending bots, and a search bar to look for new ones. The idea is that if you can browse Facebook bots, you’ll be more likely to use them. We’ll see.
- Chat extensions. Developers can now insert themselves into Messenger chats. Think the iMessage App Store, but with a nicer design. Notable launch partners include Spotify and OpenTable, which let you share songs and reserve tables directly from chat. In my brief tests, the experience was great.
- Suggestions from M. The rollout of Facebook’s human-augmented concierge service. But Messenger says its experience building M led it to create the new, automated suggestions you’ll find in your chats. Talking about where to have dinner? M will offer to order it for you, through new partner delivery.com. Asking a friend to pay you back? M will try to push you into Facebook’s payments product. M is now listening to you at all times, nudging you toward services from which Messenger might one day make money. We will see how annoying this is. It sounds kind of annoying!
- QR codes. You can now use the Messenger camera to scan special Messenger codes, which will connect you to branded bots.
- Game stuff. Messenger games now support turn-based play. Messenger is also sticking a games tab on the home screen to remind you that they exist.