Facebook regularly updates its flagship application. During the last F8 developer conference, the company announced that Messenger will be lighter and more user-friendly, “designed to build closer connections between people and businesses”. According to our CTO, “the changes are going in the right direction because Messenger is clunky”. We automate communication between brands and their clients on a daily basis. That’s why we’re always up-to-date with Messenger updates and eager to share our knowledge.
Facebook removes Discover Tab from Messenger
The American giant is making further changes in the mobile version of Messenger. Last year, Facebook cleverly hid the Discover Tab (together with chatbots and games) and later officially confirmed its removal. As stated, this will help the company to concentrate on Messenger’s speed and simplicity.
Those changes are a part of a bigger plan to redesign Messenger. Facebook wants to bring more focus on communication between friends and make it easier for users to access published content. The new Messenger will have 2 main tabs: People and Chats. In the former tab, users will have access to Stories, which contain content shared by other users. The latter will remain unchanged; it’ll still be used for sending direct messages.
These updates entail that Facebook is moving chatbots to the background. Despite this, users will still be able to contact brands. Messenger bots will be available for those who’ll search for them inside Messenger, find them on websites and Facebook ads, use “start conversation” buttons on company websites, or m.me links with QR codes.
What these updates also mean is that companies will have to rely more on paid solutions to increase their Messenger traffic. Although the truth is that they’ve been doing this anyway because, after the previous updates, the Discover tab lost its ability to connect users with chatbots.
This is not the end of improvements because Facebook also made some changes in the iOS app version (perhaps some will soon be removed or stay with us a little longer).
- Users can no longer choose emojis directly from Messenger. Only stickers and gifs are available.
- The feature that allows iOS users to send photos changed its design.
- Messages and buttons were also modified:
a) Message width adjusts to the width of text and buttons. This didn’t matter before because the width of all elements was always the same.
b) Similar improvements were made in the case of carousels. The width of carousel windows adjusts to the width of text and buttons.
c) If carousel buttons are short, they’re displayed next to each other. Previously, they used to line up one below another.
4. If we click on the “hamburger” menu, it will display all menu options at once. Most probably, this is just a temporary solution because Facebook is planning to transition from nested persistent menu to a single layer menu format.
- The “Get started” button, which is used to start a conversation with a chatbot, looks like a quick reply. Previously, it looked like a regular message button.
6. Users have new emoji reactions for direct messages.
7. Quick replies were moved to the right.
All these changes were made in the iOS Messenger version. Android users, so far, can only see how carousel buttons have changed.
The end of Messenger without Facebook
Facebook removed the ability to sign up for Messenger with a phone number. Now it requires all new users to create a Facebook account first. This doesn’t apply to “earlier” users who can still use other ways to log in.
As the company explains, unifying available login options will make it easier to use the messaging app because most Messenger users already sign in through Facebook.
This update can be Facebook’s next step to integrate its service platforms. The company openly admits that it’s planning to connect Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Facebook has already taken some steps in this direction. At the beginning of this year, it standardized the way messages are exchanged across all its applications. Besides this, the company announced its rebranding in November – the new “from Facebook” logo is animated and changes its colors in the characteristic shades of different Facebook apps.
Facebook changes the way we can send push notifications
Facebook emphasizes that it wants Messenger to meet the needs of not only users but also businesses that use the app to communicate with their clients.
Despite the updates announced this year in August, Facebook decided to add a few more changes – as a result of the feedback it had received from users.
Consequently, Facebook gives companies more time to prepare for the upcoming Messenger updates. It also moves the release of new message sending features to a different date – instead of January 15, 2020, they will be implemented on the 4th of March. Let me remind you what is going to change.
Standard messaging – businesses will have up to 24 hours to respond to users. Messenger knows clients expect an immediate response, and companies that respond quickly achieve better customer satisfaction and business results. Brands can use the 24-hour window to send users promotional content. This update will also be adapted to WhatsApp.
What is possible outside the 24-hour standard messaging window:
- Message tags: companies can send personalized messages to users in the following cases:
– after a user’s last purchase (POST_PURCHASE_UPDATE)
– notifications about upcoming or existing events (CONFIRMED_EVENT_UPDATE)
– account updates (ACCOUNT_UPDATE)
– messages sent by a fan page administrator (HUMAN_AGENT)
- Sponsored messages: sponsored messages are a great way to send highly customized and targeted messages to users who have already interacted with your business on Messenger. They increase customer engagement and sales.
- News messaging: Facebook wants to limit access to news messaging. Most chatbots used this function to send content, often even without a user’s consent. Now the only way to send non-promotional content is to register your page as a “News Page” with Facebook News Page Index.
(NEW) When a user has signed up for one-time notifications, you can send 1 message, for example, to inform about a price alert or a concert ticket. In contrast to news messaging, one-time notification API allows companies to send only one message at a user’s request. When users give consent, companies automatically receive a special token that enables them to send a single notification. You can send a notification within one year from receiving a user’s consent. After this time, the token expires. The only thing you can change is the question “Do you want to receive notifications?” (which has a 60 character limit including spaces). One-time notifications will be available in a beta version from February 4, 2020.
|24-hour window||Outside the 24-hour window|
|Subscriber – the moment of interaction*|
What does a “subscriber’s interaction” mean? When a user: sends a message, taps on the “Get started” button, clicks on an ad to start a conversation with a bot, clicks on a widget, comments your posts, reacts or answers to a chatbot’s message.
The new rules that say how you can send push notifications
Important: from March 4, 2020, messages without a tag won’t be sent outside the 24-hour window.
What can users do to open a 24-hour standard messaging window? For example, they can:
- send a message on a brand’s Facebook fan page
- click on the Get started button to start a chat conversation
- tap on a Click-to-Messenger ad that sends them straight into a conversation with your business
- start a conversation with a plugin, e.g. Send to Messenger or Checkbox
- click on an m.me link that contains a ref parameter, which sends them to an existing thread
A comparison of new and existing rules
Facebook wants to give priority to conversations started by users. It also wants businesses to respond in a timely manner and send valuable, personalized and transparent information to users.
|Rules||Existing rules (valid until March 4, 2020)||New rules|
(valid since March 4, 2020)
– standard messages
|– 24 hours after a client’s interaction|
– can be promotional
|– remains unchanged|
|any single message sent after 24 hours||– can be promotional|
|News messaging||– only 3 non-promotional use cases|
– no promotion
|– only for news pages (NPI index)|
– no promotion
|Message tags||– can be sent outside the 24-hour window|
– 16 use cases
– no promotion
|– can be sent outside the 24-hour window|
– 3 uses cases (that generally combine the previous 16)
– can be used in the case of a message sent from a fan page administrator (Human_Agent (Beta))
– no promotion
|Sponsored messages||– used to reach existing page followers|
– can be promotional
|– remain unchanged|
Messenger improves communication between users and brands
In the face of the global Messenger outage, which has affected Polish users on a smaller scale, Facebook introduces new changes to the platform.
The company started to test end-to-end encryption for audio and video calls. This will complement the Secret Conversations feature that currently enables users to encrypt text messages. The day when such encryption will be available isn’t yet known, but it certainly will be sooner than later.
There are also other interesting updates:
- Click-to-Messenger-Ads now supports Handover Protocol– companies that have fan pages linked to many applications gained the possibility to choose which app to use to continue the conversation with a user who has clicked on an ad.
- Ice Breakers – a feature that reduces friction in starting a conversation with users by displaying frequently asked questions. You can set Ice Breakers on your Messenger with the help of the application’s API.
- replies to user responses – chatbots can receive webhook events, which automatically notify companies about all user interactions. This allows businesses to understand the context of a user’s message.
- admin content filtering – threads inside messages sent by an administrator can now be filtered by an API, which allows users to receive messages without admin’s content.
Facebook constantly introduces new changes to Messenger that improve the performance of chatbots. This opens up new communication possibilities for companies and clients who use the messaging app on a daily basis.
- Dynamic persistent menu (closed beta): a default Messenger menu, which provides quick access to the most important features of chatbots. Until now, users have used a version with fixed elements. After modifications, they’ll be able to adjust the menu to their preferences. Right now, a closed beta version is available.
- Expanded private replies: from this year, chatbots can include elements such as photos, quick replies, and buttons in their automatic response messages.
- URL buttons with app link support: this means that you can direct users from a mobile app directly to your chatbot.
As you can see, Facebook finally started to listen to chatbot designers. With the last update, the company introduced many exciting changes. The beta version of the dynamic persistent menu allows to, for instance, display a sign in/out button depending on whether a user subscribes to a newsletter. Sending expanded private replies allows you to direct users to the right place inside your chatbot (up to now, it didn’t work so well). What’s more, with links to mobile apps (deep links), you can send users directly into a specific point in the app experience. Well done, Facebook! We’re getting ready in KODA Bots to update our platform.
Michał Pawełczyk, CTO KODA Bots
The American giant wants to improve the business results of companies on Messenger. It constantly runs tests and makes improvements. Facebook announced that the Discover Tab will be pulled from Messenger over the next few months. It wants to make it easier for users to contact companies on Messenger and promises investments in the updates of m.me Links, web plugins, new entry points leading to Messenger, and so on.
New tools to communicate with clients:
- Automated lead generation on Messenger: there will be a new template on Facebook Ads Manager, which will enable businesses to qualify leads within the messaging app. It will make it easier to continue conversations with clients directly on Messenger and integrate them with your CRM system.
- Appointment booking on Messenger: the solution has successfully passed beta tests after the F8 conference. It allows companies to integrate their calendars with the messaging app. Thanks to this functionality, businesses will be able to direct their conversations from Messenger to phone. The feature will be globally available later this year.
- Event reporting: this year, it will also be possible to report and track conversations in Messenger.
New Messenger features
Besides adding new tools, Messenger will also change certain rules governing the platform to better personalize communication between users and brands. Although this will take place on the 15th of January, 2020, the changes are so important Facebook decided to share them now.
- Main messaging window: will be updated every 24h. Messenger acknowledges clients who expect a quick response to their messages and takes care of companies that provide such a response. Within a 24-hour window, programmers will be able to use message tags and sponsored news to reach the target clients. The update will be adjusted to WhatsApp.
- Improved read receipts: with the new version, companies will be able to send personalized messages to people from outside of the main messaging window in several cases. For example, to contact clients after they make a purchase, remind them about current or upcoming events and account updates, send messages from the fan page admin.
- Sponsored messages: they stay untouched because Facebook noticed that sponsored messages are a great way for companies to send customized messages, engage clients, and increase sales.
- Subscription messaging (beta update): Facebook wants to limit access to this feature. It didn’t like that some companies used it against the rules and lowered the quality of conversations with users. Businesses that will register their websites through Facebook News Page index will be able to apply for beta tests to try out the new functionality.
Facebook is integrating Messenger with Instagram
The American giant won’t leave its sister companies alone. More and more Facebook functionalities are starting to integrate with Instagram and WhatsApp.
We already know that users will soon be able to exchange messages directly between WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. This means that if your friends are available on one of the three platforms, you can always chat via Messenger.
Bloomberg informs that Instagram Direct is being rebuilt based on Messenger (in terms of technology, not visual design). Users will be able to chat already in 2020 thanks to this integration.
But, what’s most important, Instagram Direct will have chatbots. And we’re very excited about it ?
Changes in Messenger – what will no longer be available in the app
We’ll no longer be able to use Location Quick Reply – a useful feature that allowed users to share their location within a conversation thread. It worked very well in the case of chatbots, for example, when clients wanted to find the location of a specific store. According to Facebook, companies now should ask users for postcodes and address details. Users will have to be patient. The American giant promises that Location Quick Reply is not disappearing forever. In the following months, a better solution will be implemented.
No more Share Button, which allowed recipients to share the message content with other users on Messenger. Instead, Facebook suggests using the Forward option built into smartphones. This is a problem when it comes to chatbot design.
Thanks to this button, we can see our click results or choose the option to share another message. I cannot answer what motivated Facebook to make such a decision. And I hope that it’s only a temporary measure, which will lead to an improved chatbot sharing functionality.
Ola Bilińska, Customer Success Manager, KODA Bots
What won’t work in the new Messenger app
So far, Messenger extensions SDK allowed brands and programmers to share website content directly within Messenger. Now, developers can generate a link using the WebView context. This enables users to copy such links and share them directly inside the app’s messaging window.
Furthermore, you’ll no longer be able to use Share to Messenger SDK to share links and media from your apps to Messenger. You might need to make changes to the apps. Users will be able to share content with Messenger using the native sharing features built into their devices.
Messenger Codes, which were a great solution both in terms of design and usability, disappear forever. To scan QR codes with the help of m.me links, users have to use the native features built into their smartphones. The app’s camera will be simplified so it will no longer support scanning Messenger Codes.
I get the feeling that it’s all happening at the moment when more brands decided to use Messenger Codes and when users started to understand how they work. This functionality is not disappearing forever, but the turn towards QR codes means going back to the past.
Ola Bilińska, Customer Success Manager, KODA Bots
Messenger features that will be available in a different form
Vertical List Templates are no longer available. This feature was rarely used in the case of chatbots. The reason is that parts of texts were cut on smaller screens and that the templates allowed to list only up to four items. Nevertheless, Vertical List Templates were helpful when users wanted to manage their subscriptions to different types of notifications. In the new version, they will be replaced with a simple carousel.
The nested menu will also be replaced. Instead of it, Facebook wants to move to a single layer menu format. As it argues, Messenger users will gain a more seamless experience.
What about the Open Graph template, which allowed users to share and play songs within Messenger? As a fallback, there will be a generic template that will link to the song’s URL. After they click on a song shared on Messenger, users will be directed to the location of that song – a website, app, or audio streaming platform – where they’ll be able to play it.
Facebook also no longer supports Messenger Bot Reviews, which enabled users to review Messenger bots with stars. This means that, after the 15th of August, page owners will no longer be able to publish their chatbot reviews.
Without change, we don’t move forward
Facebook and its apps have to make regular improvements to provide better services and satisfy users. It certainly doesn’t want to share the fate of portals like MySpace, which were successful several years ago but now are gone because they couldn’t keep up with the pace of market development. We can be sure of one thing – this is only the beginning because platform updates are announced nearly every month.
I wonder whether the deleted functionalities were chosen because of the users’ lack of interest? Did they slow the app down? Users of our chatbots rarely used the Share Button. But, at the same time, they liked to share their location. For chatbot designers, there are fewer options to choose from but UX is more important to Facebook! The Messenger app is overloaded. So the deleted functionalities are a small sacrifice when compared to the benefits the newest app version will bring.
Michał Pawełczyk, KODA Bots CTO