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Facebook hints at big changes coming to Messenger app in 2018

Facebook Messenger
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On Tuesday, January 16, Facebook Messenger Vice President David Marcus published his prediction for Messenger in 2018. While many of his predictions seem pretty straightforward, they may offer a few hints at changes we can expect this year.

A more social Messenger

Facebook is going all in on creating more meaningful interactions on Messenger in 2018. Marcus’ post suggests improvements in Messenger to foster these interactions both online and in real life.

Since Marcus’ post is a teaser, there’s not a lot for us to go on. However, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a large-scale roll out of M Suggestions this year. While Facebook would not confirm M Suggestions would expand to a wider audience in 2018, a spokesperson for the company told Digital Trends that the company plans to add “more suggestions to further enrich conversations and help people get things done.”

We also expect features that make sharing information easy to come to Messenger this year. In his post, Marcus writes, “We coordinate real-life get-togethers, we hash out our opinions on the latest news of the day, we dissect our favorite TV shows, and we replay and relive key sports moments.”

With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to expect features like in-app video and news searches this year since the company released similar features in its Facebook Spaces app for Oculus Rift in 2017. Facebook already began rolling out feature that allows users to live stream games in December 2017.

Improved real-time communication

Facebook Messenger has become an essential way for families to communicate. It’s also an important tool for relief workers. After Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017, Facebook sent its connectivity team to the island to provide emergency relief. In 2018, it looks like Messenger will focus on ways to improve connectivity in challenging environments.

Marcus writes, “This year, you will see us continue investing in real-time communications to make sure that no matter where you are, you can easily stay connected to your loved ones.” While he doesn’t explain the improvements, we would anticipate improvements with video and calling features in places with limited or poor data signals. 

A streamlined Messenger app

It’s no secret that Messenger has become a little unwieldy over the past few years. With all the new features introduced in Messenger over the last few years, the design seems to be an afterthought. Marcus tackles this head-on and tells readers to, “Expect to see us invest in massively simplifying and streamlining Messenger this year.”

While the particulars remain to be seen, we would love to see a more refined user interface that would allow you to easily organize chats. An app drawer, similar to that in iMessage, would be another welcome addition.

2018 will be more visual 

With more than 17 billion video chats in 2017, it’s no surprise that Facebook will focus on improving visual features in Messenger. In his post, Marcus says “people will expect a super fast and intuitive camera, video, images, GIFs, and stickers with almost every conversation.”

Again, Marcus doesn’t provide specifics, but we definitely expect to see a larger selection of filters and stickers this year. It also wouldn’t be a big surprise to see a Bitmoji rival and sticker creator make its way to Messenger to this year as well. Improved facial recognition and photo tagging abilities would also be a logical addition too since these will be featured on  Facebook Portal.

Lots of bots

Messenger bet big on bots in 2017. Last year the company worked with small businesses and global brands to create more than 200,000 bots for Messenger.

Marcus writes, “Look for investment in rich messaging experiences not only from global brands, but small businesses who need to be creative and nimble to stay competitive.” Since many of these bots provide very rudimentary features, we would expect to see improvements in overall user experience this year. We also expect larger brands to follow the lead of brands like Apple Music and Lego in creating marketing solutions made for the Messenger platform. 

Customer service comes to Messenger

According to a Facebook spokesperson, more than two billion messages are shared between people and businesses on Messenger each month. In 2018, we expect to see more businesses transitioning at least some of their customer service resources to Messenger.

A recent study, commissioned by Facebook found that “56 percent of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service, and 67 percent expect to message businesses even more over the next two years.”

As Messenger becomes the preferred method of communication between customers and businesses, we expect to see more companies, large and small, use the platform to market and sell products to highly targeted audiences.  With Facebook’s new Messages Objective, brands now create ads that allow prospective customers to immediately be connected to a live customer service representative or bot. Sephora, the multinational cosmetics chain, saw an 11 percent increase in makeover bookings with used Facebook’s targeted ads along with Messages Objective.

As the owner of the two most popular messaging services in the world (Facebook owns WhatsApp), Facebook seems to be focused on improving user experience on Messenger this year. While we don’t know exactly what changes Messenger will make, we do expect to see improvements on its A.I. features as well as a more streamlined user interface.

Update: Story updated to reflect responses from Facebook Messenger spokesperson.

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Steven Winkelman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven writes about technology, social practice, and books. At Digital Trends, he focuses primarily on mobile and wearables…
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