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April 13, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 11:28am

Salesforce and Dropbox bet on Messenger as Facebook launches chatbots and new APIs

News: Facebook is letting businesses and developers build on the Messenger service to interact with their customers.

By Alexander Sword

Facebook has opened the Messenger service to developers with the launch of the Messenger Platform, which will allow businesses to use the platform to interact with customers.

The social media giant used its F8 conference to launch the Beta version of the platform with bots as well as the Send/Receive API.

The bots for the Messenger Platform will be able to provide automated subscription content such as weather and traffic updates.

They will also be able to provide customised communications like receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages.

The Send/Receive API will support the sending and receiving of text as well as images. It will also provide interactive rich bubbles containing multiple calls-to-action.

Developers and businesses will have access to documents to build the bots and submit them for review.

Facebook also announced discovery tools including plugins for websites, usernames and Messenger Codes and the addition of a search surface in Messenger.

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To help businesses integrate the new capabilities with their existing advertising efforts on Facebook, News Feed ads will enable users to open threads on Messenger, while a customer matching feature will allow messages that would normally be sent through SMS to be sent on Messenger.

Finally, Wit.ai’s Bot Engine will enable developers to build more complex bots that can understand the intent behind language, and use continuous learning to improve.

"As businesses begin to interact with people – from reservations to customer service to a small test of sponsored messages – we’ve built a new suite of controls and policies that we’re putting in place now and for the future," said the Facebook announcement on its blog.

"We are focused on facilitating messages from businesses that provide meaningful value to the people who receive them."

Facebook said that there would be strict policies for businesses and developers controlling usage and that people will be able to mute the messages they don’t want to receive.

Martin Garner, Senior Vice President of Internet at CCS Insight, said that Facebook’s heavy investment in developers was extending the "reach of its platform into apps, into various forms of hardware and into an ever broader variety of user interactions.

"This will take it into a range of new business models and one key challenge will be to be as successful with those as it has been with advertising to date."

Several companies are already partnering with Facebook to integrate their products and services into Messenger.

Dropbox has launched a new feature to make it easier to share photos, videos, and other files in Facebook Messenger.

When the user taps the More button in Messenger for iOS or Android, Dropbox will be available as a source. This means that if the Dropbox app is installed, users can directly share any file in their Dropbox without having to leave the Messenger app.

Meanwhile, Salesforce launched Salesforce for Messenger, which will allow companies to use CRM data to engage at scale. A retailer will be able to embed a Messenger plugin on the checkout workflow on its website to allow customers to ask questions before making a purchase.

This will connect to the customer’s previous sales, service and marketing account records, allowing the company to personalise the exchange.

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