During Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) second-quarter earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors monetization was on its way to Messenger. It would take time, of course, he emphasized. But just because it's going to take time doesn't mean the company isn't hard at work on the early stages of making this happen. Indeed, Facebook is already making strides toward this outcome. The first big step is the company's new personalized digital assistant, M, built right into Messenger.
What is M?
Haven't seen M yet? You're not alone. Facebook has only launched the personalized assistant for a couple hundred people in the Bay Area, according to Re/Code. But the company plans to eventually launch M for everyone using Messenger.
Facebook's head of messaging products, David Marcus, explained its M project in a post on Facebook.
"M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf," Marcus said. "It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people."
Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.
This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But it's an exciting step toward enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what's important in their lives.
The unspoken purpose for M? A first step in building Facebook's Messenger -- and maybe eventually even WhatsApp -- into huge, lucrative businesses.
M for monetization
Investors can easily see how M fits into Facebook's plan to monetize messenger by reviewing Zuckerberg's comments related to turning its messaging platforms into businesses during the company's second-quarter earnings call.
Facebook plans to enable businesses to communicate and interact with users in Messenger. While Zuckerberg said he intends for these business-to-customer interactions to begin organically, the CEO emphasized it would eventually morph these connections into revenue stream.
But the long‐term bet is that by enabling people to have good organic interactions with businesses, that will end up being a massive multiplier on the value of the monetization down the road when we work on that and really focus on that in a bigger way. So, we asked for some patience on this to do this correctly.
Faceboook says M will be ready and capable to help users find, order, and pay for items all from within an app. While the social network isn't monetizing any part of these transactions or connections yet, this is a critical step in getting users comfortable with interacting with businesses in messaging apps.
During the second-quarter call, Zuckerberg likened the introduction of businesses in Messenger to the way the company first brought business to Facebook with Pages. Initially, businesses only share information on Facebook organically via Page posts. But, over time, Facebook introduced targeting and ad products for Page owners.
M isn't just an intelligent assistant. It's an intelligent step forward for Facebook in monetizing the hundreds of millions of users it has on its messaging apps.