In 2013, Facebook tried and failed to create its own phone.
Now Facebook has come back with a more considered vengeance, and announced today at F8, its developer conference, the inception of Messenger Platform, which will play nice with third party apps, and ultimately, I believe, achieve some of the results Facebook sought back in 2013.
Facebook seems to have taken two distinct paths with its platform:
1. It has actively unbundled apps from the “big blue F.” Acquisitions like Instagram and Whatsapp have stayed mercifully separate from Facebook’s primary service.
2. It has developed Messenger into an ecosystem unto itself, first by unbundling it from the primary Facebook app, and then by subsequently integrating payments, and now, other apps, into the service itself. This strategy borrows very heavily from international competitors like Line and Kik, which have offered banking and related services as part of their messaging apps for quite a while.
Facebook’s strategy is predicated upon slowly gobbling up the functionality of other standalone apps. Consider its new “Messenger for Business” feature, which allows firms like Everlane, USPS, or Zulily to communicate directly with customers. This feature could have been a standalone app by a different developer, but Facebook, with its unparalleled user base, is the perfect partner for retailers – who can presumably get more data – and for buyers, who’ll get quicker customer service on an app they already have installed.
And although it can’t own the device ecosystem, it’s slowly sliding a blue, chat-bubble shaped horse into Apple and Google’s camp.