The path to making money from mobile chat apps is taking many twists and turns. Last week, Facebook publicly previewed “M,” a kind of virtual assistant that lives on Facebook Messenger and tries to help people complete tasks like looking for gift ideas or quickly booking appointments.
Behind the scenes, Facebook has continued to talk to a wide range of businesses. The company, which hasn’t offered monetary incentives to potential partners, has told such companies that Messenger is a lower-friction way of communicating with customers and will win them new business in the long term. For some types of businesses, it has offered to build “custom integrations” within Messenger that could give customers the ability to quickly buy something or upgrade their subscription, for instance.