Some of the misunderstanding may stem from the fact that Marcus was previously the president of PayPal. Facebook slowly introducing commerce features and initiatives into the Messenger’s business messaging platform
has surely been a contributing factor as well. While these two factors have affected perceptions of Messenger’s business objectives, neither have impacted perceptions in tech circles more than the “WeChat of the West” moniker.
Why Messenger isn’t WeChat and That’s A Good Thing
I would be remiss without acknowledging the obvious: Messenger’s bot platform and early commerce initiatives have been heavily-influenced by WeChat’s dominance in China. As I noted in Commerce in a Message
, Facebook’s early Bot platform efforts didn’t take advantage of what actually made WeChat a great user experience:
A mobile web view is the best UI for most B2C messaging because of the dynamic actions that users can take. Text-based B2C messaging is too constraining for most B2C transactions, whether it’s a human or brand bot on the other end. Web views take advantage of the context provided by message apps — ID, payment credentials, messaging history — in a way that provides a more satisfying and useful user experience.
Facebook would eventually incorporate web views into Messenger, allowing developers to build more dynamic B2C interactions in the app (whether bot, webview or a combination of the two). While Facebook launched with the wrong UX (IMO) for Messenger commerce, it wasn’t an unreasonable decision and speaks to the inherent differences between WeChat and Facebook. There are many differences, but the most important is WeChat’s B2C supremacy in China’s mobile app ecosystem. It’s unparalleled, even by Facebook.
WeChat has penetrated every aspect of consumer life in China, amassing 900 million monthly active users (MAUs) and millions of businesses that use their official accounts to interact with users. For many businesses in China, WeChat serves as their website, customer service channel, and payments processor, reaching a level of infrastructure integration unheard of in the West internet economy.