Facebook announced on Wednesday a host of new developer tools, including various messaging features for businesses, at its virtual F8 software developers conference.
The event marked Facebook’s first software developer conference since 2019, as the Covid pandemic forced the company to cancel last year’s event.
This year, Facebook focused on new features to help businesses communicate with consumers directly through their messaging services. This is a key approach for Facebook, which seeks to enable more e-commerce transactions directly on its services and enable businesses to further manage their customer service through Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.
Here are some key announcements:
Messenger API for Instagram: Facebook announced that all businesses will now have access to the application program interface, or API, to send messages on Instagram. This will make it easier for companies to automate and manage direct message communication with users. For example, companies could create automatic responses or workflows for common consumer questions or requests, such as “What is your return policy?” or “Follow up on my order” before I start a conversation with a live representative.
These types of tools already exist for companies to send messages to people through WhatsApp or Messenger, but now they can also create similar messaging experiences on Instagram.
WhatsApp improvements for business communication: Facebook also announced a number of new tools for WhatsApp. These include list messages, which allow businesses to provide consumers with a menu of up to 10 options while communicating. The company also announced Reply buttons, which allow users to choose pre-written responses while communicating with businesses.
The company also announced a faster onboarding of its WhatsApp Business API so businesses can be set up to start messaging consumers in minutes. The process used to take weeks.
Augmented reality for multiple people: As part of its effort to enable more augmented reality features for users, Facebook announced its API Multipeer beta program on Wednesday. This technology will make it possible for software developers to create AR effects that work synchronously for multiple users at the same time.
So, for example, users can participate in a group video call via Messenger and apply an AR filter created with the Multipeer API. That filter would then be applied to all participants in the video call. One demo showed four people on a video call, all wearing virtual party hats to celebrate a birthday together in different locations.
“In the long term, these critical capabilities will support the content that you will see overlaid on the augmented reality glasses we are building.” tweeted Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Facebook hardware director.