Facebook launches broad expansion of Messenger app

Facebook's Messenger as a Platform
Source: Facebook

A few years ago Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained his vision to build a family of apps to help the world connect and communicate.

On Wednesday as he took the stage at the F8 developer conference in San Francisco we saw how successful he's been at bringing that vision to life, not just with apps that Facebook has acquired—such as WhatsApp and Instagram—but those the company built itself.

The company announced an expansion of its Messenger app, called Messenger Platform, making it a whole new communication system, with the potential for a range of partners and businesses to build on top of it.

With the expansions, users can "enhance their conversations with GIFs, photos, videos, audio clips and more," Zuckerberg said. People can now discover and install apps when a friend communicates from a Messenger Platform app.

(It was also revealed earlier Wednesday that the Messenger app now has more than 40 apps, and more than 600 million monthly active users.)

Some key stats revealed Wednesday showed the massive scale of Facebook's reach and its power with the 2,500 developers gathered here.

More than 30 million apps and sites use Facebook's developer tools; 94 percent of the top 100 grossing iOS and Android apps in the U.S. are integrated with Facebook; last year Facebook drove more than 3.5 billion app installs; people shared 50 billion pieces of content from apps to friends in 2014; and Facebook paid out more than $8 billion to developers in the last five years.

The company wants to be woven into every app people use on their phones. It's now the most popular way for people to log in to apps, used by more than 80 percent of the top 100 grossing apps on iOS and Android in the U.S.

While Messenger is all about interactions between friends, now people will be able to interact directly with businesses through the app. The new Businesses on Messenger app will allow people to receive order confirmations and shipping status updates, and ask questions about products. It's launching with partners including Zulily, Zendesk and Everlane.

The company also announced an expansion of its ad tech offerings, so marketers can go to Facebook to buy ads not just for the social network, but across all publishers.

Building on its LiveRail start-up acquired last year, Facebook's enabling publishers to use LiveRail to manage all their ad inventory, now including video and display ads.

The company wants to be the go-to destination for buying all sorts of ads, not just Facebook ads. It describes this as extending "Facebook's people-based approach to all publishers." What that means is that marketers will be able to tap into Facebook's demographic info to better target ads to consumers, with the goal of achieving a higher ROI. Initial test partners for this include A&E, Dailymotion and Univision.

Facebook's stock, already down 1.5 percent, fell further during Zuckerberg's keynote speech.

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