For many of us, Facebook is the other messaging app. If you’re from India, you majorly use WhatsApp. For Japan, it’s Line, for China it’s WeChat, for well-off Americans it’s iMessage and for the rest of them, it’s somehow still SMS.
But even as the secondary messaging app for a lot of us, Facebook Messenger still has a lot of traction. Facebook says it has 600 million users. The specifics of their active user base is not clear.
In many ways, Messenger is better than all the other apps I mentioned above. It’s clean, mostly works reliably, and it’s available on every platform, including the web (which is more than what can be said about other platforms here).
Recently, Facebook released something called Messenger Platform. Facebook wants to turn its messaging apps into an ecosystem. This way, developers can create independent, third party apps that can plug into the Messenger app, enhancing the functionality.
Sound a bit confusing? Let me break it down for you.
Third Party Apps, You Say?
Yes, third party apps (for both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store). Facebook doesn’t want to add all that bloat directly into the app. That would slow it down, you know, like the Facebook app.
So they decided to be smart about this and capitalize on the developer community.
Developers can download the SDK and develop apps that will plug into Messenger.
They are entirely separate from the Messenger app. They’re full-fledged apps with their own icons and everything. You can’t use them directly from the Messenger app. You create the content from the third party app and then share it to the Messenger app.
Right now, the apps don’t really have access to any of your data. So there are no security risks to speak of.
What Kind of Apps?
No, not the productive, power user type. They’re designed to help you communicate better with your favorite people. So these are fun apps that help you have a good time. Because you know what, you’re a fun person who deserves to have fun.
There’s nothing disruptive here. While some apps are really interesting, others are just for fooling around.
The updated messenger app launched with 40 such apps. What will be interesting to see is how the platform grows beyond the first 40 launch partners, who were clearly given some kind of boost from Facebook.
How Do They Work?
It’s simple. You’ll need the latest version of the Facebook Messenger app. Then click the three dotted menu button in the conversation view (I’m not a fan of three dotted menu buttons).
This will show you a list of all the apps available for Messenger. You can install them from here. The installed apps will show up at the top. You can launch them by tapping them at the top or the home screen.
Once you’re in the app, do your thing. Select the GIF, sound clip, or make the video. Ultimately, you’ll get a Send button with the Messenger logo on it. This will launch Messenger and all your contacts will show up. Tap the contact button, and the message will be sent to them.
What Do I Think of the Platform?
It’s interesting, although I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary, at least in the form that it’s in. There’s already a GIF app. The Giphy app for Messenger can only send GIFs to Messenger, nothing else. While it’s easier to use, it doesn’t make sense to basically have two versions of the same app.
Some apps like Ditty are truly innovative. These apps do excite me. But again, it would have been better if the apps were able to share to more messaging apps.
Of course, there’s a work around for that. Many apps let you store the photo/video to the camera roll – then you can re-share your material from there.
It’s All Jolly Good Fun
I’m not a very social person, but even I had fun testing the apps and annoying some of my friends.
I’m really excited about future developments. Hopefully, Facebook will open up more parts of the Messenger app to the developers (securely, of course). Maybe we’ll see full fledged clients, maybe even pro apps.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how the Messenger platform affects businesses. Facebook already seems to be pushing Messenger as a live chat and follow up service for businesses. Will it work? Only time will tell.
Do you think you’ll be using any of the new Facebook-specific social content creation apps? Share with us in the comments below.