Feb 5, 2019

Scoop: Facebook is building feature to combine business messaging

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook is building a unified messaging for businesses feature that will let businesses access and manage Instagram Direct Messages alongside its Facebook Messenger messages, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: It's a first step in building a tool to manage messaging across Facebook's apps for businesses. The New York Times reported last month that the company was planning to unit the back-end technology that runs Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp on the consumer side.

The details: The feature will add Instagram Direct messaging to a page owner's messaging inbox within the Facebook Pages Manager app on web and mobile. The tool currently only lets businesses control messages coming from Facebook Messenger.

  • The function would exist only on the front-end for business page managers. Users would not be able to see the difference when their message is answered.
  • The idea to integrate B2B messaging started 2016, when the company integrated the ability to respond to comments from Instagram on the Facebook Pages Manager app.

The big picture: Facebook’s decision to unite the backend of its three giant messaging services could help the company get a bigger foothold in the business messaging space, an area that's growing quickly, especially in developing countries.  

  • This could increase time spent in the messaging apps, which would bolster Facebook's small-but-growing advertising business within messaging.
  • While Facebook has discussed monetizing messaging for months, there are no current monetization plans for the Facebook Messaging + Instagram Direct messaging experience, according to a source.

By the numbers: Millions of businesses around the world use Facebook’s messaging tools as a business-to-business (B2B) communications platform between vendors and consumers.

  • 150 million people on Instagram have a conversation with a business every month.
  • 10 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month on Messenger.

Go deeper: Facebook's plan: One messaging service to rule them all

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Public transit's death spiral

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation.

Why it matters: Transit agencies could see an annual shortfall of as much as $38 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TransitCenter. At the same time, they're more important than ever, with more than 36% of essential workers relying on public transportation to get to work.

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World coronavirus updates: London mayor says U.K. nowhere near lockdown lifting

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered hope in the fight against the novel coronavirus, saying she believes New Zealand has "turned a corner" after two weeks of strict lockdown measures. But London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the U.K. is "nowhere near" lifting restrictions.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed over 82,000 people and infected 1.4 million others globally as of early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Global recoveries have surpassed 301,000. Spain has reported the most cases outside the U.S. (more than 141,000) and Italy the most deaths (over 17,000). Half the planet's population is on lockdown.

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Wisconsin may be the start of the 2020 election wars

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wisconsin voters braving lines in face masks — after a last-minute Supreme Court ruling against extending the absentee deadline — could foreshadow a nationwide legal struggle over how to conduct elections during the coronavirus outbreak, election experts say.

Why it matters: "It's a harbinger of what's to come in the next skirmishes in the voting wars" from now through November, Richard Hasen, a professor and national election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Axios.