Facebook’s ambitious AI based personal assistant for Messenger, Facebook M is being shut down this month on the 19th of January, roughly 10 months after it’s expected wider launch in March 2017, which never happened.
Facebook M first appeared on Facebook in 2015, although it only saw a limited release as a private Beta, and it employed human trainers that taught the AI to answer questions.
“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. We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment.” said a Facebook spokesperson to The Verge.
Facebook M shall not be completely dead, although what it was intended to do, and was built with in mind, won’t be what it will end up doing. “For instance, if you’re planning to grab drinks with a friend, Messenger can suggest to set up a reminder. If somebody is asking you where you are, M will suggest sending your location.
While the name is similar, those AI-powered features are quite different from the concierge feature. But most users never interacted with the personal assistant in the first place.” writes TechCrunch’s Roman Dillet.
The Verge’s Casey Newton writes about his experience with Facebook M, “I got access to M in October 2015, and used the service only about three dozen times over its lifespan. It felt like an amazing resource to have at my disposal, and yet in practice I almost never knew what to do with it. In most cases, I used M only when I knew that doing so would save me from making a phone call — because M would be making it for me. When I mentioned this to Mark Zuckerberg in an interview, he responded, “I think that’s probably not very different from other people.”
M was not essentially a bad product, it’s just that the real life applications for something like it, currently, are rather limited and considering the amount of resources Facebook put into it, waiting for people to adopt it would be a waste. In this place, “Fin, a new virtual assistant startup founded by a former Facebook executive that closely mirrors the M service, charges $1 per minute, with a minimum monthly expenditure of $120.”
The novelty of a new virtual assistant wears off in a couple of weeks, and many users with the private Beta access to it, admit that is what happened including The Verge’s Casey Newton.