Facebook Preps “Moneypenny” Assistant

Facebook is planning to join an intriguing frontier of the Internet: virtual assistants on mobile devices.

The company is working on a feature within Facebook Messenger that allows users to ask real people for help researching and ordering products and services, among other tasks. It’s being referred to internally as “Moneypenny,” according to three people briefed on it.

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Google doesn’t have a strong existing messaging platform like Facebook’s but it has been trying to build a network of retailers that help fulfill orders quickly through Google Express (which can be accessed through Google Search).

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The service seems designed to boost user engagement with Messenger, which Facebook is hoping to turn into a major platform.