Facebook opens up Messenger to apps

Facebook is opening up Messenger to third-party apps. CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement at F8, Facebook’s conference for software developers. Zuckerberg called it an “exciting, big new area and opportunity for Facebook.” The giant social network is mining the potential of its popular messaging service to extend beyond text messaging to new forms of expression. App developers will be able to bring “rich new ways” to have conversations on Messenger, Zuckerberg said.Indian Start-up Acquired By Facebook

Messenger Platform will offer more than 40 new apps so that people can add GIFs, photos, videos and audio clips to their conversations. By giving people new ways to interact on Messenger, Facebook is hoping to keep their attention from wandering to rival services. One of the new apps on Messenger is Ditty which sings personal messages to friends in the melody of famous songs.

Users type up to 70 characters, select a track such as “Counting Stars” or “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and Ditty generates a personalized lyric, according to Zya, the company that created the app. “Ditty makes it possible for people to have musical conversations and Messenger provides a great platform for such conversations,” said Matt Serletic, co-founder and CEO of Zya. Facebook also announced “Businesses on Messenger,” which lets users have personal conversations with businesses. For example, after buying something from a website, users can choose to get updates such as order confirmations and shipping status or ask questions of the business in Messenger, all in a single thread.

Last week Facebook announced a new feature that lets friends send money for free via Messenger. Messenger has 600 million users. WhatsApp, the popular messaging service Facebook bought for $22 billion, has 700 million users. Increasingly Messenger and WhatsApp are competing with the likes of not just Snapchat but China’s WeChat (owned by Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings), Japan’s Line and South Korea’s Kakao Talk.

Those services, which are a combination of an instant messaging app and social network, are used by hundreds of millions in Asia and other parts of the globe to make voice calls, play games, share photos, read entertainment or sports news, summon a taxi, buy movie tickets or virtual goods such as emoji or stickers.

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