Messenger chief David Marcus at F8 in April. Photo by AP.
Exclusive
Facebook E-commerce

Behind Facebook’s Messenger Missteps

Photo: Messenger chief David Marcus at F8 in April. Photo by AP.

Facebook employees buzzed about Messenger’s personal assistant, known as M, when it launched inside the company and to a test group of thousands of users in California last year. Users could buy movie tickets or even order pinatas for employee birthday parties, although the work was performed mostly by people rather than a computer. The idea was that deep-learning algorithms would eventually learn enough from the requests to automate the work.

Reality eventually set in. Facebook’s artificial intelligence research team initially estimated it would take tens of thousands of queries before M could book a restaurant without humans. That estimate later ballooned to many millions, said a person with knowledge of the planning.

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
The Takeaway Media/Telecom
The Next Big News Disruption
Anyone who works in media—and especially in news—can feel the change. Everything about this business, from the editorial content to the talent to the (restless) energy of virtual newsrooms, is growing more intense.The pandemic is obviously a big part of the story. But there’s something bigger going on: a new phase of disruption as powerful as the last—if not more powerful. The last sea...
Latest Briefs
 
Splunk Adopts Permanent Remote Work Policy
New Software Platform The Archivist Raises $2 Million From Ashton Kutcher, Edward Norton
Ant Group Looks to Revamp Healthcare Service Amid Beijing’s Crackdown
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Org Charts Google
At Booming Google, Search Chief Gives More Love to Product Managers
Even as Google’s business booms and hiring accelerates, senior leaders have made changes to the unit housing its biggest moneymakers—web search and advertising.
Photos by Bloomberg; Illustration by Mike Sullivan
Exclusive Facebook
Zuckerberg’s Plan to Repair Facebook’s Image: More Zuckerberg
During a companywide Q&A with Facebook employees last Thursday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned to a question about a recent uptick in posts on his Facebook page, including a joke he made referencing the actor Vin Diesel a few days prior.
Photo: Bloomberg
Opinion Venture Capital Startups
Why the Smart Money Is Headed to Europe
For years, Europe has run a distant second to the U.S. when it comes to creating and supporting tech startups.
Branded president Michael Ronen. Photo provided by Branded
The Big Interview Venture Capital Startups
Branded Joins Frenzy of Startups Acquiring Amazon Merchants, Finds Profits
Michael Ronen recently learned more than he ever thought he’d know about soap. Ronen runs Branded, a startup that buys up successful small businesses who sell their wares on Amazon.
Data Point
Inside Rounds Hit Record $30 Billion as Investors Double Down
Venture capitalists may be getting too comfortable with marking up their own portfolios. The number of inside rounds, or VC deals in which only a startup’s previous investors participate, reached a high of over 1,000 in the U.S.
Didi’s offices in Hangzhou, China. Photo: Bloomberg
Exclusive Asia E-commerce
China’s Ride-Hailing Giant Didi Plans Separate IPO of Grocery Business
Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-hailing giant that plans to go public in New York this summer, is already making plans to spin off its newly created grocery-delivery service a year or two after the initial public offering.