Facebook wants to be your everything, and the next step in its long and deliberate journey to subsume the entire world is here. Messenger, Facebook's separate (and now genuinely useful) messaging app, is growing up and you have every reason to be excited.
Up until now, Messenger and its growing list of functions were entirely under Facebook's control. The separate app, the chat heads, the voice calls, the new features like sending money to friends? All Facebook's doing. But now, Messenger is no longer just an app; it's a ~platform~. Facebook is letting third-party developers slap together their own apps and services on top of the track Facebook's already laid.
So what's that mean for you? Well if someone wants to build a great GIF messaging app right now, they probably have to make everyone download a new app to get in on the fun. But by building on Messenger, it gets much easier. Take an app called Ditty, for example. It will sing your Messenger messages to the tune of pop songs, (which is waaaaaaay more fun than it sounds if you wildly abuse it).
If it was its own app, no one would ever use it; it's just not worth it to deal with extra apps or links to videos hosted on websites somewhere. But because Ditty is built on Messenger, it'll just show up as a video embedded right in anyone's window, regardless of whether they've ever heard of Ditty.
Chances are, a lot of the first apps to come will be stupid emoji shops and other semi-fun, profoundly forgettable little trifles. There are a lot of sticker apps at launch, and also some stuff for sound clips and video. But other similar open chat platforms—particularly ones that are big in Asia, like Line and WeChat—include games and the ability to send money and to buy things and direct from stores.
Messenger, as it just so happens, is now set up to do that same sort of thing. A new, open, mini-Facebook that isn't all bloated and horrifying—yet. There's still plenty of room for it to get nasty fast; Facebook is keen on making companies and brands just like people on Messenger, which could mean everything from ordering Taco Bell with a quick Facebook message, to Taco Bell chatting you coupons in the middle of the night.
How this all plays out depends in large part on what developers wind up doing with the new freedom, but there is a lot of promise for good. Yes, using Facebook proper can be horrible, but odds are it's still the most complete contact list you have. And if the new Messenger—with all its new apps and features—can effectively send anything you want to anyone you know, maybe it can become the ever-elusive universal chat app. God knows no one's gotten it right so far.