Facebook would really like users of its Messenger chat app to use bots run by media companies and other commercial partners, which is why the company is now making it easier to discover these automated services.
The company introduced a new Discover tab within Messenger at its F8 Developer conference in San Jose Tuesday, highlighting chat bots from select partners including Fandango, Spotify and the Wall Street Journal.
The company also added the ability to share music and other media directly with other users as part of an integration of a handful of bots in group chat sessions. “Music on messenger is going to be a big thing this year,” said Messenger product head David Marcus.
Previously, users could only interact with bots by directly chatting with them. Now, they can chat with their friends and quickly share a song preview from Spotify, video highlights from the NBA, sports news from TheScore and more as part of a feature that the company calls chat extensions. Apple Music will be joining the platform soon, and Marcus said during an interview with Variety that the company is also working on bringing full song playback for Spotify subscribers to the platform.
Facebook also unveiled new Messenger QR codes, additional features for Messenger-based games and additional features for the company’s chat-based virtual assistant Tuesday.
All of these efforts tie into something the company calls the Messenger Platform, which is essentially a way for third-party businesses to build automated chat bots that allow them to interact with the chat app’s 1.2 billion monthly active users in an automated fashion.
Marcus said Tuesday that the company now sees users send over 2 billion messages to businesses, and the company also revealed that users have played more that 1.5 billion games in the past three months.
Facebook also unveiled new ways for developers to build these kinds of bots Tuesday, which include the ability for Facebook pages to build automated replies to certain queries. For example, if customers frequently ask when a restaurant closes, that answer can now be provided by a chat bot.
Update: 3pm: This post was updated with additional information on the Spotify integration.