Facebook opened up its Messenger app to developers on Wednesday, making way for new applications like video chat, gifs and audio services on its system.
The company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced plans to turn Facebook Messenger into a platform for apps created by other companies at the social network’s F8 conference on Wednesday. Zuckerberg called it an “exciting, big new area and opportunity for Facebook”.
Messaging services including Snapchat and China’s WeChat have attracted millions of users. Facebook paid $19bn for WhatsApp last year, but its own service has lacked some of the options of its rivals.
Forty new applications will initially be available on Messenger Platform including Zya Ditty, which will sing personal messages to friends to the tune of popular songs. Sia’s “Chandelier” OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” are among the first tunes licensed to the service.
Facebook is hardly new to the idea of making itself a platform for third-party developers: its website fuelled the first boom in social gaming when companies such as FarmVille creator Zynga were at their peak.
Facebook also worked with a number of streaming music companies – Spotify most prominently – on features to help their users share details of their listening to Facebook. Those partnerships were announced at the F8 conference in 2011.
Four years on, and it is Messenger – which has more than 500 million monthly active users – that could fuel a new raft of partnerships for Facebook, which has clearly been watching developments around messaging apps like WeChat, Line and KakaoTalk in Asia closely.
Those companies, which also have hundreds of millions of users, have built bustling communities of developers around their messaging apps. In the west, messaging apps such as Tango have also become a platform for social gaming, with that company also working with Spotify.
Media companies may also be potential partners for the new Facebook Messenger platform. BuzzFeed, for example, is working with messaging apps including Snapchat, WeChat, Tango and Viber, albeit more around running an official profile that links to its news rather than building apps for them.
Facebook is rumoured to be in talks with a number of media organisations about hosting their content rather than simply linking to it. Any such deals are more likely to be based around its main news feed rather than the Messenger app, although it is possible they could also be announced at F8.
This article was written by Dominic Rushe and Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 25th March 2015 14.12 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010