LOS ANGELES — Facebook is banking on the camera eventually becoming the keyboard.
The latest updates revealed Thursday to its instant messaging service Facebook Messenger certainly aim to please users with new ways of helping them get their points across via photos and video.
“It’s way more visual. It’s way more expressive. It’s way more of a video-first type of experience,” said Facebook head of product for messaging Stan Chudnovsky. “That will allow the whole internal conversation to switch from text-based, visual augmented [conversations] to visual, text augmented — which is where the whole world is going.”
Chudnovsky was on hand, visiting Facebook’s Playa Vista offices last week as media and influencers were invited in for demos and presentations of the new features.
The new Messenger Camera aims to make it easier to take photos and videos by having the shutter more accessible. More stickers, frames, masks and effects were added that can be layered onto photos, videos and text.
They are largely consumer-facing enhancements to Messenger. A clear understanding of what this may bear out for retailers is less certain but no less important for businesses to track if they want to better understand how people are communicating with one another.
“We are focusing on users, the people,” Chudnovsky said. “We are not trying to look beyond that right now. We are just trying to enable people to do what they’re already doing every day and let them do it better. That said, we don’t know which form the whole thing will take down the line.”
If a wave of designers or retailers wanted to somehow utilize Messenger for business purposes, it’s a form of communication in much the same way companies use text messaging today to sometimes talk to their customers. That could very well be the case with Messenger longer term, Chudnovsky said.
Messenger’s new camera and video capabilities are part of a broader strategy by Facebook being driven by a video-first mindset across its family of apps. That includes the launch of Facebook Live and Instagram Stories earlier this year as the company gears up for a future in which the camera will eventually be the main channel people use to share with one another, chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said during a call last month with analysts. How the company develops those products and businesses around them will evolve across stages, he added.
“I think about our progress here in three phases,” Zuckerberg said during the September quarter call. “The first phase is building a great consumer experience and getting it to scale. The second phase is about enabling people to organically interact with businesses. And then the third is to give businesses tools to reach more people.”
Messenger with some 33,000 bots now live is early in its second phase and it’s to be determined when it might enter the third, Zuckerberg said.
Monetizing Messenger will no doubt be rooted in advertising as seen with the company’s recent capabilities added to advertise on Facebook’s News Feed feature. A similar capability for Messenger could allow for perhaps integration of payments or personalized messaging, if a user allows an advertiser to tap that kind of information, Chudnovsky pointed out.
“We definitely are an advertising company and so the money we make as Facebook is all through advertisement,” Chudnovsky said. “The way we are thinking about making money right now is actually pretty simple. People are already buying ads on News Feed and that’s great. It’s working for them and we love that. But we believe that with Messenger we can make help people to make even more money.”
Data on how advertisers are using News Feed and their success with it is still too new to share.
“It’s way too soon,” Chudnovsky said. “We have some — let me put it this way: We have some good data that suggests it is working for a lot of people.”