Facebook has announced two tools designed to boost the appeal and uptake of its Messenger instant messaging service, while also making a play into the Internet of Things (IoT) with is Parse cloud platform.
Messenger Platform is aimed at helping software developers to integrate the social network's messaging service within their apps. The platform enables texts, pictures, audio and video content to be shared from an app within a private or group message.
If the recipient of a message containing content from an app does not have that app installed, Messenger Platform provides the option to install that app from within the service.
Facebook is touting this as a means for people to discover apps recommended by their friends.
Some of the apps integrating Messenger will have the opportunity to be featured directly in the service through a tab that provides shortcuts to the apps a user currently has and ones they might be interested in trying.
Messenger Platform is now open to all developers.
The second tool is Business on Messenger, which is still at the preview stage, and is designed to allow users to start conversations with businesses through the Messenger service.
Through it users can receive updates about online shopping orders and delivery times, and ask businesses questions about products or services.
Forrester analyst Thomas Husson said Business on Facebook is an example of how messaging services being used increasingly for marketing as well as communications purposes.
"After announcing a payment functionality in Facebook Messenger, Facebook makes another step with Messenger Platform. Messaging apps have already begun to morph into marketing and commerce platforms," he said.
"Some other apps like Line, Kakao, WeChat have moved beyond messaging, and cloud communication providers like Twilio let companies integrate communication functionalities into their own apps.
"Beyond Facebook, I believe we'll see a lot more innovation in this space in the months and years to come."
Cisco is another firms to try and move into this area with its Project Squared collaboration app that it unveiled last November.
Facebook also revealed new development kits (SDKs) for its Parse cloud-based mobile app development platform that are designed to make it easier to integrate data from a wide range of internet-connected devices.
James Yu, founder of Parse - which was acquired by Facebook in 2013 - said the SDKs have been created to make it easier for developer to extract data from IoT devices and use it within their apps.
"We believe that connecting more hardware devices with the cloud has the potential to change the world for the better," Yu said.
"We are already seeing devices that add tremendous value to people's lives, from wearables that help you sleep better to insulin trackers that aid people living with diabetes.
"You could make a smart thermostat that can be controlled via a mobile app, or a security camera that saves images every minute, or even a music device that can be controlled via a web app."
By providing cloud-based IoT development tools, Facebook could clash with Microsoft, which recently released its Azure IoT Suite to aid the development of software that makes use of IoT data.
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