Facebook’s AI-powered smart assistant, M, for Messenger is going away. Initially launched in 2015 as a beta for a very small group of users, M helped users get things done from within Messenger with the help of humans and artificial intelligence. On January 19, Facebook will be pulling the plug off M.
The social network giant says it “learned a lot” from M over the last 2 years, and the company will use some of M’s tech on its other AI projects going forward. “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,” a spokesperson told The Verge.
Facebook killing M at this point in time is exactly the opposite of current market trends — almost every tech giant now has a smart assistant that powers its smart speaker, and Facebook was even rumoured to be working on a smart display/speaker powered by M last year. Whether that will ever see the light of the day now remains to be seen, however.
It’s important to note that a small part of M, called M Suggestions, will continue to live on within Messenger after the retirement of the main smart assistant. M Suggestions shows context-aware suggestions within conversations in Messenger, helping users with things like making meeting plans, or just showing some simple stickers/emoji suggestions for replies.
When M launched as a beta, the smart assistant had a ton of potential when compared to other smart assistants at the time. That was mainly because M was partly supported by real humans, who helped users with incredibly complex tasks that simply couldn’t be accomplished by AI. But scaling M to work for its billions of users, Facebook would need a lot of new employees and a ton of cash.