Update: The digital assistant 'M' has now arrived on Australian shores as well.
Facebook Messenger is getting a lot more interactive if you’re a UK or Australian user. Facebook is launching its digital assistant M, as part of its global rollout.
M is a completely automated assistant that makes suggestions based on the conversations that you are having in Messenger, potentially alerting you to features that you may not have known about previously.
The sorts of suggestions that M can make include:
- Sending stickers - personalised suggestions for stickers like ‘Thank you' or 'Bye-bye'.
- Sharing location - If the conversation is about your location, so someone asking “Where are you?” for example, M will suggest that you share your location.
- Making a plan - If you are trying to organise a plan with a group, M will suggest using Messenger’s planning capabilities.
- Creating a poll - If you and a group are having a difficult time deciding on a subject, M will suggest creating a poll to decide once and for all.
- Birthdays - If the person you are speaking to in a one-on-one conversation is currently celebrating their birthday, M will surface a suggestion to wish them happy birthday in one of the many ways Messenger currently supports; these include stickers, cards, and videos.
- Saved - When content is shared in a message that M decides is worth you saving for later, a suggestion will pop up for you to use the Saved extension. This can be used for URLs, videos, Facebook posts, events, and pages.
- Starting a voice or video call - If you’re in a one-on-one message and one of you suggests you actually speak, M will suggest initiating a call within the app.
While the suggestions are undoubtedly useful, there will be users who are uncomfortable with knowing that there is a bot essentially listening in on every conversation that they are having, waiting for an opportunity to make a suggestion.
If you would rather not have M making suggestions, it is possible to mute suggestions in M settings. We contacted Facebook to see if muting turned off the observation of your conversations. A representative said:
"Turning this feature off means you will stop receiving helpful suggestions and prompts from M. However, Messenger will continue to use automated tools to analyse messages so that we can help reduce spam on our services and also to make our products responsive to how people are using Messenger."
This is the latest rollout of the feature, which was brought to the US in April 2017 after successful testing. In the US, M has slightly more suggestions than it currently has in the UK and Australia thanks to Messenger’s payment functions that are yet to come to these regions.
All these suggestions are obviously a way for Messenger to try and keep you within its ecosystem, as many of the functions that M is suggesting are functions that users typically turn to other apps for.
That said, there are some truly useful features of Messenger that many people don’t use, and may not even know exist, so we do envisage M being useful for those users.
Suggestions from M should automatically appear on your Messenger app. If it doesn't, it may be worth checking that you have the latest update.
- Want to get the most out of messenger? Check out: 8 things you didn’t know you could do with Facebook Messenger
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Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.