With more than 800 million monthly users, Facebook's Messenger app offers a wide range of communication features for both individuals and businesses, although it hasn't been a significant revenue source for the company. Now, however, Facebook is reportedly looking at ways to monetize Messenger by giving business users the ability to send ads via the mobile messaging service.
Facebook plans to start letting businesses send ads to Messenger users through the app in Q2 2016, according to a leaked document obtained by the publication TechCrunch from an unnamed, "verified source." A report on the news site yesterday said the new feature will let companies send ad messages to users who have previously engaged in text chats with them on Messenger.
We contacted Facebook to learn more, but the company declined to provide further details. "We don't comment on rumors or speculation," a spokesperson for the Facebook Messenger team told us today via e-mail.
Lots of New Messenger Features
Facebook Messenger has evolved considerably from the simple mobile app that first launched in 2011. In 2015 alone, the company added a number of new features that included video calling, a transportation requesting service with Uber as its first partner, and support for sending money to friends.
During last year's F8 developer conference, Facebook announced a new standalone Web version of the app on Messenger.com. It also introduced two new spinoffs: Messenger Platform, aimed at promoting new opportunities for developers on the app; and Messenger Business, a one-stop communication service designed to let companies stay in touch with customers throughout the browsing, buying, shipping and delivery processes.
"We created all these experiences with a mindset of helping hundreds of millions of people manage their daily interactions with people, businesses, and services more seamlessly than ever," vice president of messaging products David Marcus said last month in a blog update about Messenger.
Enabling 'the Right Experience' with Businesses
Yesterday's TechCrunch report about the coming of ads to Facebook Messenger quoted the company as saying, "[O]ur aim with Messenger is to create a high quality, engaging experience for 800 million people around the world, and that includes ensuring people do not experience unwanted messages of any type."
That comment, "sounds like Facebook trying to reassure users that even when there are ads, they won't be completely unsolicited, and it's going to be very careful," the report noted.
Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has previously made public comments indicating that the company was testing ads on the Messenger platform. In his January 7 blog post about recent and coming developments with Messenger, Marcus did not specifically refer to the addition of ads, but did indicate more changes were coming.
"Our early tests in 2015 with brands are showing that interactions will happen more and more in your Messenger threads, so we'll continue making it easy for you to engage with businesses, and we'll also do more to enable additional businesses and services to build the right experience in conversations," Marcus said.