Why we switched to Facebook Messenger as our platform…

1.2 billion users could be lurking.

It’s ironic really as over the last few years I’ve not been a huge fan of Facebook. It’s felt slightly clunky and is often overloaded with stuff that I don’t really want to see, as well as personally I object to being data-mined with adverts.

So picking Facebook’s chat platform would seem a strange choice I guess.

But the future direction of Facebook, as demonstrated at their last two F8 conferences, I find a lot more exciting. Their ecosystem of current apps now makes a lot more sense and it all points to developers being able to really use the power of Facebook’s human network.

Right now FB Messenger feels like a great step into that future. With so many customers using a single, universal chat browser, you skip the problems of OS wars when most users download zero apps per month .

Your apps could be in everyone’s pocket already — they just need to talk to you.

Louis & I began prototyping a new app last year called Hey Casa which originally was our own chat application running on web and mobile. It was fun to build but the issue became quickly apparent that our problem was not the tech, but the lack of people in our network. For us to succeed everyone would need to use our propriety app which translates as “You want me to add another chat app?!?”.

This is when we began playing with Messenger as our platform.

It didn’t take long to realise that although the app itself is essentially a browser, its unique power lies in connecting people, not websites — a browser for the social graph.

It also becomes apparent, after a bit of experimenting, that although it’s great being able to create bots inside Messenger, having the ability to develop your own platform inside is massive . This is why Louis and I thought it’s time to go “all-in” with Messenger and decided to scrap our own chat software.

At first we constantly got stuck within the limitations of the platform, however in many cases we realised that our own UX decisions were in fact the issue. And as many others have discovered, the whole concept of design and development in chat is explorative, exciting but is often hard.

As of last week Messenger 2.0 was released fixing plenty of the original gripes that we’d had. It now feels mores suited to building beyond simple chat reply-bots. For instance our personal home buying bot relies heavily on web views. These are a critical component in improving UX in places where conversational replies are inappropriate — now they genuinely feel like native controls (on mobile at least!).

(I’ll soon be writing about our challenges to date designing bots for utility, personality and simplicity.)

It also still feels like early days…

Having built a few bots since 2006 (my first I think was for MSN Messenger) it should seem like bots are old news and many developer would agree that we have in fact been building bots for decades. But for some reason this really feels different.

The human network within Facebook, whether you love it or loathe it, is incredible and their simple tools are extremely powerful. Messenger as a platform could be a gigantic opportunity for all developers. The ability to offer users incredibly rich experiences that just work, feel intuitive and are seamlessly convenient.

But this is also where the ability to screw it all up begins too…

I guess the biggest fear is that Messenger yet again will become saturated with ads and noise and spam and crap ! This will completely kill it (for me at least).

In fact what would really blow my mind at the F8 2018 conference is not more tech (actually I lie — alongside more tech would be better 😉), but instead that Facebook were to have pushed it’s boundaries of innovation and moved itself away from its core ads business model… annoyingly that’s the most outdated part of their 10 year plan!

Connecting directly in Facebook Messenger to buy, sell or let homes is a great experience. There are so many advantages to being connected instantly and personally whether you are an owner, buyer, landlord, tenant or agent. Using Hey Casa! you get all the advantages of a powerful communications tool like Messenger combined with a few bits of AI to help personalise the experience for you.

P.S. we promise to donate at least 20% of our profits to projects and charities that focus on fixing housing issues. This means that simply by using our Messenger home assistant to find, sell or let your home you will be helping someone less fortunate to hopefully find theirs too. 👌