- Facebook Messenger’s AI-fueled assistant M provides suggestions amid conversations on the messaging app for U.S. users on iOS and Android devices, according to an announcement from Facebook Messenger product managers Laurent Landowski and Kemal El Moujahid.
- A small group of Messenger users have been receiving tips from M for a few months, and Facebook declared them a great success so far. The company explained they pop up when M recognizes intent in conversations. They pertain to digital stickers, money requests, location sharing, making plans, polling friends and securing rides. Facebook views M as helping expose users to features they might not have realized exist within Messenger.
- M started in 2015 with a human component, but Facebook has ditched the human supervision in favor of complete automation. The company hinted at future enhancements to M bringing Messenger users “delightful and relevant experiences.” Adweek reported M is expected to be rolled out beyond the U.S. at an unspecified later date.
Facebook’s AI endeavor is taking place as AI-driven chatbots are facing criticism for being ineffective and causing frustration. Another big complaint is that discovery is a challenge, with users unable to easily browse available bots. Even Facebook Messenger chief David Marcus acknowledged chatbots are often subpar. “It got really overhyped really, really quickly,” he said of chatbot adoption at a TechCrunch conference in September.
Facebook Messenger appears to have taken a lesson from the shoddiness of other AI efforts by progressing slowly with M. It assessed M’s competency over many months and is staving off an international release until M is seasoned in the U.S. Facebook also emphasized that M will leverage machine-learning techniques to better its interactions with Messenger users going forward. Landowski and El Moujahid vowed, “The more you use it, the more it can help.”
Personal assistants are infiltrating the digital universe. Amazon has Alexa; Apple has Siri; Google has Google Assistant; and Facebook Messenger has M. Facebook Messenger’s version of a digital personal assistant interweaves its actions into ongoing chatter to integrate into people’s everyday lives. By showing Messenger users they can do things like request Lyft rides and send money from inside the app, Facebook undoubtedly is attempting to keep users on the app longer and encourage them to come back frequently. However, Facebook doesn’t want to disrupt the Messenger experience of users who don’t like M. The company stresses those not wanting M’s assistance can mute it or they can engage with it only for specific tasks.