Facebook has moved the world a step closer to app-ocalypse with a redesign of its Messenger home screen.
In the first half of 2016 tech giants Microsoft, Facebook and Apple talked up a future online experience led by chatbots at their developer conferences.
BusinessCloud then reported on the potential demise of apps, which were popularised by the iPhone, as the service industry braces itself for the bot revolution.
Chatbots could soon be our first port of call when ordering taxis, making restaurant reservations and interacting with companies.
Facebook’s Messenger home screen redesign, which seemingly hadn’t yet taken effect in the June 16 UK update but is now in use in the United States, replaces the familiar long list of chats with a wider-ranging list of options.
The sections are recent conversations, favourites – the people you message most often – active users at that precise moment and messages awaiting a response. Friends celebrating their birthday are also highlighted.
“We’re hoping this helps extend and open up the functionalities of Messenger to more people,” says Facebook product manager Andrew Song, who said the focus for now is helping users navigate Messenger to connect with friends.
However he admitted that the home screen of the future could well include tabs for businesses and bots: “We want to peel away that onion over time.”
As reported by BusinessCloud, messenger service WeChat in China has already integrated an “app ecosystem” as part of its service.
“Users can order things like pizza or Uber using a tool similar to WhatsApp or Skype – it’s like the e-butler services. That’s going to happen, no question,” says Laundrapp founder and CEO Ed Relf.
It is clear that the next big battleground is for control of the messenger market, with Microsoft and Google also pushing services into their respective apps.
However Facebook looks likely to emerge triumphant as it boasts more than 1.65 billion monthly users – Messenger has 900 million – and owns WhatsApp, which has a billion users.