Facebook has launched the next step on Messenger, its second largest messaging service behind WhatsApp. Instead of merging the two apps, Facebook intends to make Messenger a platform for more than just text chat.

It has launched Messenger Platform, allowing third-party developers to create apps to run over-the-top of the service. This means things like GIFs, news articles and weather reports can be posted in a conversation, instead of linking to or taking a photo.

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Facebook wants all types of content to be available directly through Messenger, similar to the report that it is trying to integrate news articles inside the News Feed. This removes the need to visit a third-party site, and means more time on Facebook.

Over 40 apps have been created for Messenger Platform, which will launch this week. Facebook intends to have thousands of apps for different users, allowing all types of content to be readable on Messenger.

Facebook also announced Businesses on Messenger, a new service that allows users to get in contact with businesses. This will remove the need for a chat client and allow mobile users to talk about transactions and orders on a familiar interface.

Installing this app might be a little pointless however, since it might only be used once a year if a problem arises. Hopefully, Facebook further integrates Businesses on Messenger to work on the normal Messenger app and on multiple platforms.

Messenger needs to offer more than text chat, or it becomes a competitor to WhatsApp. By making it a way for people to do more than chat, it puts Messenger in competition with LINE and WeChat, two messaging services that are offering a variety of other services.

[Images via: Facebook, Reuters]