Unlike in China where WeChat’s massive success made it the go-to app for everything from getting a cab to ordering lunch (and of course free messaging/calls), the US hasn’t had the luxury of a centralized platform to get everything done. While Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home have gotten closer with their voice-activated assistants (with advertising), these are only at-home solutions.
Facebook has been pushing integration with businesses for a while now, with their pages and advertising tools. The next step is getting people to stay in the Messenger app as long as possible, especially since it is the top downloaded app in the App Store with 1.2 billion users each month. This year at F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, they announced a handful of new features, some of which even WeChat doesn’t have (others WeChat had for a long time).
Friends can now play turn-by-turn games (a feature previously only iMessage/iPhone users had). Messenger’s and businesses’ bots can now be used in group chats: you can make restaurant reservations, share news, send music, etc. using Chat Extensions.
Messenger’s “M” – a virtual assistant to rival Siri, Cortana, Alexa, etc. – will pop up in chats to help with payments and find information, and even make reply suggestions. Businesses can now create QR codes to make finding the right bot easy with a scan.
Facebook Messenger vs. Tencent WeChat features:
WeChat doesn’t have any bots right now, and unless Facebook makes it so that businesses can easily create them, it’s only going to be a gimmicky feature that makes it difficult for local businesses and users. Whereas WeChat makes everything simple and easy for small businesses, and large companies have always built their own automated response machines.
And none of these Messenger features come close to matching the usability of WeChat. WeChat users in China can easily go a day without their wallet since their bank accounts are linked to WeChat.
Even though Messenger is blocked in China, users aren’t losing out. In contrast, Facebook is only now slowly catching up to WeChat.
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