Facebook Is Launching It’s Own App Center

Facebook has unveiled its own App Center just like Apple and Google – an application store for both Android and iOS devices that features native and web apps that connect with Facebook one way or another. The App Center has about 600 apps so far but more are being added every day.

“The App Center helps high-quality apps grow by promoting those that people enjoy the most”, said Bruce Rogers, a programmer at Facebook. “It includes all types of social apps, including those built for Facebook.com, iOS, Android, and the web. People can find apps through their friends, browse by category, or get personalized recommendations.”

The App Center will function as a one-stop store for apps (both web-based and mobile). It is available on mobile via the Facebook apps and by accessing Facebook.com from your mobile. On your mobile, you can directly launch the appropriate app store for installation. If you find an app you want to install on your mobile while browsing on your desktop, you can use the “Send to mobile” feature and if a mobile app requires a download, you will receive a text that shows you where you can download the required application. Every app has screenshots and a detailed description, so you can learn more about it before actually installing it. The App Center also provide you with personalised recommendations, presumably based on Facebook’s social knowledge of it’s users, and it displays the apps your friends are using, so you know what is trending among your friends.

Rating facility

Facebook is introducing a rating facility within the App Center and the highly rated apps will be featured on the front page of the App Center for promotion. Success through the App Center depends on the quality of an app, user ratings, engagement etc. Facebook is also adding a new app ratings metric in Insights that will show you how users rate your app.

Well-designed and highly rated apps will be prominently displayed. Apps that receive poor user ratings or don’t meet the quality guidelines won’t be listed at all. Everyone who wishes to have their apps listed in the App Center needs to create an app detail page. The page becomes the new destination when non-users search for an app on Facebook. If you want to create a page, there are some guidelines that ensure that your page does not get removed.

Do you think the inclusion of only high-quality apps will prompt users to turn to the Facebook App Center for apps or do you think most users will go for a broader choice of apps at Google Play or Apple’s App Store?

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.