Facebook is apparently gearing up to turn its Messenger app into something of a platform. According to TechCrunch, the company will unveil ways for third parties to offer up their own features for the service, probably at next week’s F8 Developer Conference.
That’s good news for developers, although it might also aggravate Facebook’s already severe case of me-tooism.
Right now, Messenger does what it says on the tin, allowing users to chat with each other via its mobile service. For nearly a year it’s been a required app installation for Facebook users who want to chat on mobile devices.
Since last June, however, Facebook Messenger has become less of a service for doing one thing well and more of a platform for multiple activities. First it started allowing photo messaging, and in December, it unveiled digital “stickers” for decorating those photos.
Then on Tuesday, Facebook announced that people will be able to use Facebook Messenger to send money to one another. It’s yet another marker in the service’s gradual shift in hopes of fulfilling all of your communication needs in one place.
Tracing The Line
Facebook’s strategy will sound familiar to anyone who’s used the Asian messaging service Line. Invented in Korea and launched in Japan in 2011, Line quickly reached 100 million users in eighteen months and 200 million users six months after that.
The free app features a chat function, but allows users to do much more. Line has a photo shooting and editing tool, a hub for games, and dozens of third-party apps you can download to enhance your Line experience.
Possibly most iconic is the Line sticker shop, in which users can download generic stickers for free, or movie and TV-inspired stickers for small sums. In retrospect, Facebook’s Stickered For Messenger add-on was just the beginning of a similar empire, though it is still unclear whether Facebook will also add a paid option for licensed-character stickers.
Line Pay is another feature of the multi-service app, which allows users to make mobile payments with the app by registering their credit cards. Facebook has already cloned this service with its new option for sending money to friends.
Line has made a name for itself by being everything to, if not everyone, a sizeable number of people around the world, so you can understand why Facebook would want to emulate that success. There’s just one problem, and it’s that Line isn’t just big in Asia. Line USA already exists. In order to succeed, Facebook can’t just copycat Line—it has to do it one better.
Lead photo by Maria Elena; Facebook stickers photo courtesy of Facebook