Facebook has introduced sponsored messages to Messenger – the service's first ads.
Messenger's version 1.3 update opens up the ability for brands to message users or highlight their messaging bot, trialled on a very limited basis earlier this year, to all advertisers globally.
The launch was announced at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon by Messenger VP of product David Marcus.
At least initially, businesses will only be able to message users who have previously initiated a conversation with them, and users will be able to block advertisers if they don't want to see future messages from them.
With this launch, Messenger moves from what CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week described as the 'second phase' of Facebook's non-core businesses – "enabling people to organically interact with businesses" – to the third, when it starts to monetise by offering advertisers "tools to reach more people".
That came during the company's Q3 earnings call, on which Facebook admitted that ads within the News Feed of its core app were reaching saturation point, meaning it would need to turn to the other services it has not yet monetised to continue growing. It's no surprise, then, to see this launch taking a step towards that.
This leaves one major part of Facebook's business still untapped – WhatsApp, which at least superficially would present the same opportunities for businesses. It currently remains untouched by the changes, but for how remains to be seen.