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Facebook means business with Messenger Platform, VR and drones

Planet-wide prototype

The Aquila solar-powered drone prototype might not be considered an 'app', but it's certainly a new family member. Boasting the wingspan of a 737 and the mass of a small car, it is intended to fly up to 90,000 feet to provide internet access to net-poor areas in order to "get everyone on the internet," according to Schroepfer. Altruistic, sure, but Facebook is sure to be one of the main beneficiaries of both this and Google Inc's internet-beaming satellites. It currently has 1.3 billion monthly users and is hungry for more.

And this desire to get the whole planet online is set to compound one of the issues informing the need for artificial intelligence development: the glut of digital picture and video content, with more and more added daily. AI will help to index and archive this huge amount of data in a more rational and human way, to "build a deeper understanding of what's in the content."

Facebook is working to build new AI systems that can learn, be trained and solve basic logical problems, helping to make sense of the brimming sea of data, which is set to become a Great Flood as Facebook widens its global reach.

"If we achieve our first goal, get everyone on the internet, build services at scale for the entire planet, we create this new problem: so much information you can't consume the stuff that's important to you," Schroepfer said.

Messenger Platform

Facebook wants to reinvent communication between customers and businesses

Platform expansion

Adding to this info flood, the announcement that Facebook is opening up its four-year-old Messenger service to third-party developers – the 'Messenger Platform' – so that they can add their own functionality ("more tools for expression") looks to be an attempt by Zuckerberg to broaden Messenger into a wider platform, with over 40 new apps already developed. With more than 600 million people said to use Messenger at least once a month, there's clearly scope to make it more than just a chat hub. "One of the fastest growing and most important members of our family is Messenger," explained Zuckerberg.

Facebook had previously announced VoIP calls and that it was allowing US Messenger users to send money to and from one another, and at F8 Zuckerberg also announced Businesses on Messenger to "reinvent" how people and businesses communicate.

This will allow members of the public to communicate directly with representatives from businesses that they interact with or buy goods from, instead of using the more traditional email approach – something Skype once tried unsuccessfully to front up. One specific use of Businesses on Messenger will be to allow users to receive real-time shopping updates, tracking and confirming orders via instant message conversations.

With more and more companies worldwide overcoming their initial scepticism of Facebook as a business-facing platform, this is an interesting development, expanding business' reach into Facebook's more traditionally personal orbit.