People are now fed up of writing long texts and are resorting to easier means of communicating with their friends. One of the main reasons for giving up texts is that one cannot express the full range of emotions one is going through. Despite the distance, they should enable the people to have face-to-face conversations.
The product manager for Facebook Messenger Tony Leach says, “We like to think of the camera as the new keyboard.” Around 9 months ago, his team embarked on an ambitious project to redefine the app as a medium to share images and not just words.
Through the shutter button on the Messenger home screen, one can add more than 5,000 graphical stickers and filters to the image and add photos and videos. One can even use computer-generated art turning any text into an illustration. Messenger even has his own story feature called Messenger Day which is currently available in only a few countries including Australia and Poland but is slated to roll out to a wider audience including the U.S.
One cannot deny the uncanny familiarity one feels while referring to Messenger Day and “camera as keyboard”. This is another interpretation of the Story feature which was pioneered by Snapchat. In Snap’s IPO filing, the philosophy was described as, “In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones.”
Endorsing visual communication does not mean that everyone is copying Snapchat. In reality, if any messaging app fails to embrace it then they are doomed. “Gradually, as communications become more visual, we had to build a camera that’s more powerful,” says David Marcus who is Facebook’s head of Messenger.
In 2013, the Messenger launched the stickers but was reluctant in doing so fearing that they will not be received by the West in a similar way as they were in Asia. However, to their utmost surprise, people started grabbing on the idea sooner than anyone thought.
In mid-2014, Facebook launched a complicated Snapchat-like app called Stickered which had all the features of using text, graphics, stickers over the images and was liked by the audience. It was through all these features that Facebook Messenger was able to hike its users from 200 million to 500 million.
Centering the Camera
“The camera is a great way to initiate a conversation or share a moment that you want people to comment on,” Marcus says. Bringing the camera to the center was like moving the furniture of a billion users but Messenger took the big step in mid-December.
By just swiping their app down, users could access the numerous features which sat beneath. A big transparent button was overlaid in the middle of the navigation bar making the camera literally the center of the entire app.
Once the user takes a photo, they can select from more than 5,000 graphics to add to their image or video bringing it very much in line with the things people usually do with messaging.
The filters aren’t anything one can find on Instagram or on Snapchat for telling a story. They have been designed for the present tense and are illustrated keyboard shortcuts. “Slowly but surely we’re seeing it used for conversation starters” leading to longer conversations, adds Marcus.
Humanizing the Text Message
The real test of the Messenger lied if it can make the day-to-day conversations somewhat less boring. Anyone who’s ever debated on the shopping list or the night out can know how soul-crushing such pictures can be.
“I was in the grocery store looking for something my wife has asked me for. I couldn’t remember if it was potato starch or potato flour.” PM Tony Leach tells. “I just snapped a photo and drew ‘which one do you want?’ She circled the one she wanted and it made the conversation a lot easier.”
Instead of being in trouble for forgetting something, Leach devised a situation with visuals making him escape the trouble.
It is very important that our chats should be able to encompass every form of expression and communication but Facebook Messenger should be careful of over-cluttering the app as it might cause usage complexity for the users.
- Facebook messenger chat camera: forbes