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article imageFacebook Messenger wants to help you find something to talk about

By James Walker     Oct 18, 2016 in Technology
Facebook is preparing a new Messenger feature that will let the app suggest conversation topics to you. Messenger will guide you towards interesting discussions with your friends, keeping you engaged on the platform for longer and increasing app usage.
TechCrunch reports that the feature was spotted by Chris Messina over the weekend. It shows up as a panel in the redesigned Messenger homepage labelled Conversation Topics. The section includes places your friends have recently visited, songs friends have listened to and events that others have expressed interest in. It allows you to see what your friends have been doing and start a conversation with them to discuss the subject.
Conversation Topics seems to require Messenger to be connected with Facebook's wider platform. Last year, Facebook separated the two apps, enabling you to use Messenger without a Facebook account. Because Conversation Topics is reliant on you interacting with Facebook in other ways, full membership will be required to use the feature.
The simple conversation prompts could encourage striking up a chat with friends you haven't talked to for a while. By letting you identify shared interests before you enter the thread, Messenger can increase your confidence you'll have something to say. It could also make it easier to speak to a new contact for the first time, enabling you to choose a topic that your friend's already familiar with.
Conversation Topics can act as a basic Facebook News Feed within the Messenger app. It lets you catch up on the activities of friends while communicating in Messenger, eliminating the time taken to open Facebook, look at a user's profile and return to Messenger.
The new feature may be related to "Rooms," another experimental project found in Messenger's source code. Rooms seems to have a similar purpose to Conversation Topics, connecting users with people who have similar interests. It's thought the feature will enable people to create public chat rooms and discussion boards on Messenger's platform.
This could evolve Messenger into a place to meet new people and engage with likeminded individuals, giving Facebook more niche appeal. This is an area that Facebook rival Google Plus has already succeeded in, gaining a reputation for being a place to host tight-knit groups and communities of users.
Facebook Messenger recently passed the one billion monthly active users mark. Facebook is still rapidly expanding the platform to keep its customers engaged with Messenger. Making it easier for people to start conversations and interact with other users will increase overall app usage, making Messenger into an even more valuable product with a far wider reach than simple peer-to-peer messaging.
Conversation Topics is not yet available to the masses. It is currently only accessible to select users of Messenger's iOS app so only a few customers can use the feature. It's understood Facebook will give it a wider launch if initial feedback is positive.
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