Facebook's Messenger cracks the one billion user mark

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 21 July 2016
Image credit: Sheryl Sandberg's Instagram: "Today we're celebrating the more than 1 billion people who use Messenger each month!"

Facebook's Messenger app has reached the holy grail of one billion users.

The 2004-founded social media powerhouse has become one of the few apps to crack the billion user mark, with the offering joining the likes of its big brother Facebook, and Facebook-owned service WhatsApp.

In April 2014, Facebook announced that the messaging feature would be removed from the main Facebook app and users would be forced to download Messenger.

The messaging app hit 900 million users in April and some three months later it's grown by 100 million users.

Speaking with AdNews, head of messaging products at Facebook David Marcus, said there are several factors that have contributed to the app's growth over the last few months, and even over the last few years.

“We built a couple of capabilities that more and more people love and have come back to messenger for,” he says.

“Mainly there are all kinds of different ways for people to communicate and interact, like video calling and voice over IP calling and ways for people to express themselves.”

Marcus said there are also more experiences within the app that are coming soon from brands, with one major recent one being news services communicating to users through Messenger.

In the same month that Messenger hit the 900 million user mark, the service also announced that bots were coming to the service.

This meant the arrival of fresh tools that let developers from any company create 'bots' that can communicate with people using a mix of artificial intelligence and human oversight to mimic conversations. The bots allow people to communicate with brands and, for example, book hotel rooms, check flight details and get shopping receipts all in Facebook's messenger platform.

In the last three months thousands of bots have been launched with Marcus telling AdNews there are currently 15,000 bots live and 22,000 developers from both big and small businesses working on bots currently.

He says that previously the interactions people had with brands weren't the most seamless, but bots are giving brands a new opportunity to communicate with consumes at scale.

“For the first time brands can interact with their customers in a way that's very personalised and scalable at the same time. So depending on what sector a brand is in, if it's an FMCG having that connection with its customers, that's something that's extremely valuable. If it's a more traditional developer getting reach and distribution capabilities through notifications is also very valuable.

“So depending on what industry it's in, brands have a clear advantage over just doing mobile web and app - it's a new channel,” he added.

In the US brands such as BMW and Sephora are already using bots, with Marcus outlining that while like anything, such as the first generation of apps and websites, there were learnings to be taken on, but bots are getting better and more useful for consumers everyday.

One business who launched its own bot, is travel site Kayak, with its chief scientist Matthias Keller telling AdNews that by using a bot the brand is able to communicate with the lucrative millennial market all while communicating with consumers in an environment they're comfortable in.

"Facebook Messenger must be considered as one of the top, if not the top, right now available platforms of this kind," he says. "Launching on Messenger brings us a major step closer in being able to help our users in planning, booking and managing travel without having to leave their habits, for example switching to another web site or install an app."

When it comes to if Facebook Messenger is set to over take the original Facebook app any time soon, Marcus says: “We're not really focused on that – what we wanted is to get to as many people as we can and serve them."

“You might imagine that when we crossed into a billion users we were celebrating and partying, but we all felt the same way – we felt we now have a great sense of responsibility to serve the one plus billion users really well.

“If anything we're more thoughtful than we were before. We still feel it's the beginning and we still have so much work to do.”

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