1 Aug 2016

3 Facebook Messenger features you need to try


You’d be wrong to think that Facebook’s Messenger app is all about messaging.
Although people typically install it on their phones to chat privately with their Facebook friends, Facebook also uses Messenger to bring features and capabilities that might not make sense, or even be possible, as part of the main Facebook service. And of course, a separate app gives Facebook even more advertising and other moneymaking opportunities.

For that reason, Facebook is pushing users to download the app, even though it takes up valuable storage on the phone. The company recently started blocking access to Facebook messages from mobile web browsers on Android phones in some markets. The ban will extend to iPhones as well, though Facebook isn’t saying when.
Before you complain, consider what a separate Messenger app offers beyond simply typing words and sending emoji back and forth:
BOTS
Who wants to chat with people when you can chat with ... bots? Well, most of us, but bear with me here.
Since April, Facebook has let outside businesses create “chat bots” that can send you the news or weather, help you shop for shoes or book plane tickets and hotel rooms. You send a message to a brand’s bot just as you would a friend; the difference is that the reply is automated through software. The results can be clumsy, as expected for such a new venture.
But bots can be helpful. Expedia, for example, lets you search for hotels and book them by messaging with its bot. Start by telling the bot where you are going and when. After some back and forth, the bot will give you hotel options. To book, the bot will take you to Expedia’s website.
This is just the start. Perhaps one day, the bot will be more useful by letting you book directly through Messenger. David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging products, has called bots “overhyped in the short term and underhyped in the long term.”
VIDEO CALLS
Your mom isn’t on Skype? FaceTime isn’t cutting it because your friend has Android?
Messenger offers yet another way to do video calls on your phone. It’s free over a Wi-Fi connection. If you use cellular, you might get charged for data by your phone company.
PLAY GAMES
How about some soccer — or football, as it’s known in most of the world? Select a friend to play with. Then, select Messenger’s emoji keyboard by tapping on the emoji icon on the left side of your message window, right above the keyboard. Tap the soccer ball icon and send it to your friend. Then, tap the ball with your finger and keep tapping it so it stays in the “air.”
During a recent, frustrating attempt, I had a high score of just two — though that’s still one more than what Portugal scored to win the Euro Cup this year.