Facebook’s Messenger Platform — everything new!?

Yesterday Facebook released its new Messenger Platform at the F8 conference in Fort Mason, San Francisco. A lot of new cool stuff is coming, but some of the features are already known from other messenger networks. We looked into new features of Messenger and compared them to similar features of Telegram, Kik and Line.

Introducing Messenger (QR) Codes

A few days before the F8 David Marcus, Head of Messenger, already announced the new Messenger QR codes and the new m.me/3x14159265 URLs which will be available for people and businesses. This enables people to quickly start a new conversation by simply scanning the code or tapping on the URL. This is a necessary feature, which Kik (QR Code) or Telegram (URLs: telegram.me/pichsenmeister) already had way before. They even look almost the same:

Left: Kik QR code, Right: Facebook Messenger QR code

The Bot Platform

With the new platform, Facebook now allows everyone to build a bot. This is a huge move, but in this space, Facebook is one of the last movers. Kik was the first mover in this space, opening its platform around 18 months ago for bot developers, followed by Telegram in June 2015 and now Line beginning of April 2016.

Left: Start screen of a Telegram bot (@VentureBeatBot), Right: Start screen of a Messenger bot (Shop Spring)

Actionable UI elements

An important part of bots is also to enhance the text interface with actionable UI elements to improve interaction with bots. Most of the other messengers are using custom keyboards or customizable keyboard buttons, so users can click a button as response instead of typing.

Left: Kik keyboard buttons, Left-middle: Line keyboard buttons, Right-middle: Telegram custom keyboard, Right: Messenger Templates

It seems that the Messenger team put a lot of thoughts into making structured parts of the conversation very easy. While customizable keyboard or keyboard buttons are a good start, Messenger is going one step further and provides customizable templates within messages. This means that a single message is enriched with UI elements instead of enriching the thread. Therefore multiple actionable UI elements from different messages are available at the same time or could be used multiple times. In the case of the other messengers, keyboard buttons are typically gone after the action is performed.

Messenger templates can be customized

While keyboard buttons are limited, Messenger templates can be customized, giving the possiblity to build actionable UI elements for a variety of usecases. This is a really great feature to enrich messages especially within a mobile messenger.

Another great feature on Messenger are scrollable cards. These cards are a smart way to give multiple responses at once without letting the user to scroll vertically through the conversation. This makes a conversation much more clear. A similar approach is used by Telegram for so called “inline bots”, but these bots are limited to be used within an existing conversation and need to be called separately every time they are used.

Left: Telegram Inline Bots, Right: Messenger scrollable cards

With the release of the new Messenger Platform, Facebook is giving businesses in different fields, like e.g. eCommerce companies or news publishers a great way to engage with their customers or readers in a clean and simple way and on platforms their users already love and use. Messenger’s userbase of 900 million monthly active users will soon have to possibility to reach out to businesses and bots the same way they do with their friends and family by simply sending a message.

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