Facebook Messenger platform updates announced Sept. 12 have enabled chat bots to accept payments, meaning Messenger users now can make payments within Messenger threads and not have to leave the app. Facebook says it has 1 billion users in 200 countries who use Messenger monthly, and developers and businesses have built more than 30,000 bots for the app.
Chat bots are automated computer programs designed to simulate conversations with humans.
Messenger users will see “buy now” links appear in chats. Tapping the link will bring up a checkout screen populated with whichever payment method consumers have on file with their Facebook or Messenger accounts, followed by a payment confirmation notice. Financial information is protected by bank-level encryption, according to Facebook.
The payments feature is available for certain developers during beta testing, but businesses can apply to be included in the beta while the company works on rolling out the capability more broadly by the end of this year, according to a Facebook announcement. The payments system will support most credit cards and payment services including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Stripe, PayPal and Braintree, David Marcus, head of Facebook’s Messenger, said during a TechCrunch conference on Sept. 12.
The improved Messenger platform also allows users to share bots with friends, scroll through a list of airline flights, view different types of media and play basic games while still in the chat window. “Inside a thread, you have identity, transaction capabilities, the ability to draw UI, and draw native buttons and interfaces. We’re bringing all these types of experiences together,” Marcus said, according to TechCrunch.
The recently announced improvements will make good on the hype that wasn’t quite met surrounding the Facebook Messenger bot platform when it launched in April. “The basic capabilities we provided at the time weren’t good enough to basically replace traditional app interfaces and experiences,” Marcus said in the TechCrunch report.
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