Facebook has already become a ubiquitous source for information about friends. Now the company wants to reinvent the inbox.
David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook, unveiled the social network’s new vision for Messenger this morning at the Wired Business Conference in New York. The app’s new home screen, which will be rolled out over the next few weeks, will now show which friends are active on Messenger at any given moment, which Marcus said made the app more utilitarian.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a conversation if you’re bored and want to talk to someone,” he said.
Messenger’s new home screen will also allow its 900 million users to mark the people they talk to the most as “favorites” so they can be accessed more quickly—the app will also send a notification whenever one of these close friends has a birthday.
“You can find your friends at the right time in the right context,” Marcus said.
Since the inbox/home screen is the most visited place on the Messenger app, Marcus said it was ripe for reinvention.
“It’s about time,” he said.
Facebook also eventually wants users to be able to interact with businesses in Messenger, where users can not only order items but also get receipts, shipping information and customer support all in one thread.
“Today we have segmented all of the interactions we have with businesses in different places,” Marcus said. “But they can all be in one historical, contextual place.”
Marcus Wohlsen, a senior staff writer at Wired, said that the new vision for Messenger’s home screen seemed very similar to a phone’s operating system, and asked if Marcus was envisioning a future where users only have one app on their phones.
“I can’t say I dislike that future, but it depends on if we provide real value and utility for people,” Marcus said. “If you solve a real problem, people use your product. If you don’t, then people don’t. We can solve a lot of problems that haven’t been solved in the mobile era.”
Wohlsen followed up by asking how Facebook was going to convince users that Messenger was a true mobile experience—and Marcus’ reply was short and sweet.
“By building it,” he said.