Messenger 1.4 Update: Taking Chat away from Bots

In one of its biggest updates yet, Facebook announced a massive restructuring of its Messenger platform. In this update, Facebook has a brand new way for users to interact with bots through simple persistent menus, which transforms the user’s bot experience from conversational to purely structured.

Developers now have the option of totally disabling text based user inputs, making it less burdensome for the user to communicate with the bot. Apart from revamping bot structure, Facebook has also focused on growing a bot’s audience, with multiple updates enhancing social sharing capabilities at the user level. Other updates include – a technical enhancement making user matching more accurate; new APIs that promote bot discovery; improved analytics around bot engagement and other minor changes that address specific issues faced by developers.

Enhanced Menu Structure

A new menu structure that supports multiple levels of nesting, allows users to choose a menu option and then dig deeper to refine her search from further sub-menu options. This simple, elegant structure is very similar to mobile website views of ecommerce companies, where users refine a nested menu one level, after the other to find what they want. Facebook has allowed developers to completely remove text based conversations from the UI, making life simpler for the user. In the example below, a user navigates a nested menu travelling from “Go Shopping” to “Tops” to “Sweater”.

Features to grow audience

To enable users introduce the bot to their friends & family over Messenger, the following features have been made available

  • Content Sharing: This update enables users to share rich content from a Messenger bot to their friends on Messenger. The content of the shared message can be customized to include a link, message, image and button thereby providing additional context to the shared message, increasing the overall engagement levels for the recipient. Previously, users could only share a single message with no context attached to it.
  • Sharing from Webviews: Users can now share content from a Webview in a messenger bot to their friends on Messenger. Developers can track and attribute such an action.

Other Updates

Better customer matching to build a user base on Messenger: Earlier developers could match a user’s phone number with the Messenger account, to initiate a conversation with that user. Now this process has been optimized further to include the user’s name as a parameter for the matching, giving more accurate matches.

These updates are pretty impressive and are in-line with Facebook’s vision. Last year, when bots were first announced, Facebook clearly mentioned that it saw bots as a combination of conversational and structured elements. Taking away the conversational element makes life easy for the user, as she does not have to construct complex sentences but can rather choose the item from a structured menu, just with the click of a few buttons. Also, users are very much used to these structured menus, like while searching for products on an eCommerce mobile website or contacting customer care which purely is a structured menu. Bots are just programs that automate conversations, it is not necessary for these conversations to happen in natural language. This bold move by Facebook should help businesses immensely, since it takes away the need to implement complex NLP based ideas which happen to go wrong many a times.

Here’s the official Messenger 1.4 update from Facebook.