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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to developers Wednesday. Photo by Bloomberg.

What Facebook Should Learn from WeChat

Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to developers Wednesday. Photo by Bloomberg.

Facebook today announced big plans to open up Messenger to developers. This means Facebook wants to make your Messenger inbox as central a communication channel as News Feed.

To start, you’ll be able to send stickers, videos and messages made in other apps through Messenger. And more significantly, you’ll be able to use Messenger, not email or the phone, to communicate with businesses.

Does that sound far out there? Not if you live in China or are friends with people who do. In fact, while watching the f8 keynote this morning, I was surprised by how closely this functionality resembles China’s most popular messaging and networking app, Tencent’s WeChat, which I use on a regular basis and which leaders in the tech industry have been following closely for years.

It makes sense for Facebook to move in this direction. Mobile phones have made messaging a far better way to communicate. One thing that came through loud and clear in the keynote is that Mark Zuckerberg sees many other types of services that can integrate with Messenger, which has 600 million monthly users, over time. “It’s a really exciting big new area and opportunity,” he told developers in San Francisco.

(For those of you wondering what this direction means for Facebook’s efforts to enter China, I think this move is much bigger than tailoring Facebook to Chinese users and doubt it would want to compete head-to-head with WeChat.)

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

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