December 23, 2015
Facebook users will soon be able to start hailing an Uber ride without leaving the Messenger app. The new partnership will also allow the Uber service to capitalize on Facebook Messenger’s millions of users. Facebook plans to add other ride-sharing companies in the coming months. The new service is part of Facebook’s strategy to emulate rival Asian apps such as WeChat, which already allows users to message each other, hail rides, and shop for goods and games.
Messaging apps are a crucial part of the mobile experience in Asia. For example, WeChat, China’s premier messaging service, touts more than 650 million users monthly. The penetration rate of WeChat in major Chinese cities is more than 90 percent, according to TechCrunch. People use it to conduct business discussions, buy goods, share links, and send money to friends.
Messaging apps like WeChat, LINE, and Kakao Talk provide extra services, like games or stickers, to make money.
Facebook has already started enhancing its Messenger app. The company added a payments system to let users send money to friends. It also started allowing developers to write apps that could be included within the Messenger app. A digital assistant, similar to Siri or Cortana, is also in development.
Facebook says its strategy is different than its Asian rivals. Instead of adding a collection of apps within Messenger, Facebook wants to integrate these additional services within the thread of conversations. David Marcus, VP for messaging products at Facebook, told The New York Times, “For us, it’s all about context. The way we look at whether an experience makes sense inside of Messenger is if it makes sense within the confines of a conversation.”
Facebook is adding the ride-hailing service so that people making plans over the Messenger app can easily set up their transportation as well. The Messenger app has been updated over the past few days so that existing Uber users can connect their accounts. New users can also sign up from within the Messenger app.
The first Uber ride ordered through Messenger will be free up to $20. The service will only be available domestically in cities that already have Uber. Eventually, the service will roll out internationally as well.