- Reuters/Dado Ruvic
Get ready for all sorts of updates and announcements from Facebook.
The social network kicks off its annual developers’ conference, F8, on Tuesday and the biggest topics on the agenda will likely be Messenger and video.
Here’s what to expect.
Invasion of the chatbots
Since Facebook first started letting businesses integrate with its chat app, Messenger, at last year’s conference, it has continued to give companies more ways to use it to communicate with potential customers.
Facebook’s thesis is that some people hate talking on the phone and would rather do something – buy a shirt, order an Uber, make a dinner reservation, check their flight status – within a chat interface. So, it wants to turn Messenger into a full-on platform for retrieving information and getting things done through natural-seeming conversations with businesses.
While users may drool over the thought of disputing their cell phone bill via Messenger instead of on the phone, Facebook needs to make this conversational platform feel like a win for businesses, too. So, Facebook is widely expected to release new tools to help companies automate their Messenger conversations with users through artificial intelligence-powered “chatbots.” With chatbots, businesses can eliminate a lot of the human effort required for letting users “talk” to them through Messenger.
The company launched its own in-house artificial intelligence chatbot, M, last fall to a group of beta users in the San Francisco Bay Area that’s meant to field any kind of question or request from users. Last we heard, humans were still doing a lot of the work behind the scenes, but Facebook will probably give us some sort of update on that, too.
Ken Sena at Evercore also sees M as becoming a hub to connect users with other chatbots.
“As Facebook’s Messenger platform develops and more chatbots and businesses build on it, it stands to reason that M could become part virtualized assistant, part power networker, where recommendations and connections with other chat bots, online and even at point-of-sale, stand to be made,” he writes.
Facebook hasn’t started making money from its Messenger app, but getting more businesses to use it in new ways opens up a whole host of revenue opportunities, like making businesses pay to blast users with deal announcements or to appear as “suggested” companies to chat with in Messenger. Facebook has also talked about a “click-to-message” ad type where businesses pay when users click the message button on one of their ads.
Although the news out of F8 will likely focus on the tech side, the advertising potential will be top-of-mind for many.
For the last year, Facebook’s also been putting an increasing focus on video.
Last week, it hugely updated its live video product putting it front and center in its mobile app and making it easier for users to discover streaming broadcasts and other videos.
As the company has struggled with how to deal with stolen videos ripped from YouTube, live video both increases its amount of original content and offers an attractive opportunity for advertisers.
But to steal TV ad dollars, Facebook needs high-quality content. We’re expecting information about new tools that Facebook will give creators to make more professional-grade videos.
“Video is another area that may yet be monetized more aggressively,” says Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research, citing the need for more high-quality content that advertisers can associate with, instead of just having their own sponsored videos in News Feed, as a next step.
But F8 won’t just be Messenger and video.
We’ll also get updates on Facebook’s efforts to improve Internet connectivity – and thus Facebook usage – around the world, as well as info on virtual reality, WhatsApp, and new ways that app developers can integrate with Facebook’s platform.
We’ll be covering the keynotes, announcements, and chatter around the conference Tuesday and Wednesday – tune in!