After two and a half years, Facebook M is retiring, the text-based virtual assistant. The company is ending a certain aspect of the service that uses humans to train AI system. The human-enhanced version of this VA became available to around 2,000 people in California. But it’s going to expire on January 19.
However, the contractors who are working on it will have other jobs at the company.
What is Facebook M?
Launched in August 2015, M offered fully automated suggestions when you make plans or send stickers using the Messenger. During its launch, the company suggested that its assistant, which is powered by humans, would be available to more users.
Unfortunately, it didn’t come true. When it announced the shutdown, the company described the human-powered M as an experiment.
In a statement to CNN Money, Facebook said:
“We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot. We’re taking these useful insights to power other AI projects at Facebook.”
For those who have accessed the service, they reported it to be a fantastic resource. However, they just didn’t have a clue on what to do with it. Some of them would use it to save them time from making a phone call as the VA would make it for them.
And that’s one of the reasons Facebook had difficulty in making it more available widely. During its lifespan, Facebook experimented on pushing recommendations to its users. For instance, it would ask users if they would want to send flowers to their loved ones on Valentines Day. Many have thought that M would be more successful at commerce.
Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. The reason for this is that most users opt for native apps. They would also prefer the web over sending SMS.
However, the company succeeded in automating some of the work that its contractors used while disguising as M. As mentioned earlier, users can ask the bot to deliver some flowers to their loved ones. The bot can provide suggestions from online florists.
The “experiment” provided the company valuable data that it can use by its AI researchers.
In 2016, several tech companies believed that chatbots would be a massive platform in the future. In fact, Kik, a messaging app, invested its future on bots and chatvertising. Betaworks, on the other hand, unveiled Botcamp, an accelerator program. During the 2016 F8 conference, Facebook introduced bots to developers and described it as the best way to connect with millions of users on Messenger.
On the other hand, only a few people expected that Alexa, Google Assistant, and other voice assistants would survive. But they did thrive, while chatbots suffered. Kik, for example, shifted to blockchain technology. Now, Facebook is shutting down M.
Despite the hype, Facebook M was just an experiment. It might have been a fantastic perk for some users, but it was a cost center for the social media site because it required people to fulfill most of its tasks.