Mar 27, 2015

    FB Messenger woos app developers, shoppers


    FACEBOOK on Wednesday opened up its Messenger service for developers to create apps and for shoppers to communicate directly with retailers, as the Internet company seeks to expand its reach.

    The new features mark Facebook's latest effort to transform its mobile messaging service into a full-featured platform with the same pull among consumers and businesses as its flagship 1.4-billion-user social network.

    Facebook unveiled the features at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, for the first time allowing developers to create apps that function inside the Messenger service used by more than 600 million people.

    Messenger will feature more than 40 different apps in the next few days, allowing users to send each other sports clips, animations and other items, Facebook said. Among the first apps will be those from ESPN and The Weather Channel.

    Facebook partnered online retailers Zulily and Everlane to let consumers contact them directly on Messenger to change online orders, such as the colour of a shirt, and be notified when a purchase has shipped. The service will be available in a few weeks.

    The service is likely to expand to businesses besides retailers.

    Purchases can be made by sending a message, provided the store has the consumer's payment information, said David Marcus, Facebook's head of messaging products. But he declined to say whether Facebook might eventually process such retail purchases directly in Messenger.

    The ESPN app offers short animated sports clips that fans can send to friends.