Facebook is testing out a new digital assistant called Facebook M. This is a big deal. According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 1 billion users worldwide were active on the site in a single day. This is a first for the site, and it happened on Aug. 24.
That means 1 billion people may someday use Facebook M in a single day. Facebook claims 1.5 billion users log in at least once a month. That's a far bigger reach than either Siri or Cortana has at the moment (though Cortana has a shot at surpassing that if people actually use it as part of Windows 10).
Facebook M does what most digital assistants do. It can search the Internet, update you on travel plans, and make reservations. Facebook M also has a human element run by human operators who will take your requests. You can ask them to call your cable provider and ask for a new copy of your bill, for instance. No one knows exactly where the line is on what Facebook M will and will not do yet, or whether it could ever scale to serve 1 billion people.
[ Of course, if Facebook gets telepathy right, it won't need a digital assistant. Read Why Facebook, Telepathy Don't Mix. ]
It looks like Facebook M is the company's best play yet to gain your trust, so that you offer up the only private information they don't have yet, such as banking information, social security information, and your home address. These and other personal identifiers might be required for the Facebook M service to complete errands for you. Imagine giving Facebook even more information than it already has?
On the other hand, you already trust the site with pictures of your kids, so how could it get worse? I say go whole-hog. In that spirit, here's what I hope to have Facebook M accomplish:
10 Things We Wish Facebook M Would Do
1. "Like" all the pictures of my friends' kids. I like kids. I have my own. Mine will always be cuter than everyone else's to me, so why pretend? I only "like" my friends' pictures, because they liked the pictures of my kids. Now we're stuck in a mutual circle of like. Facebook M, please click that little like thumb for me, so I can get back to not looking at pictures of other people's kids.
2. Report every ad as spam. My current Facebook ads are for toilet paper and a trip to Hawaii. I've already got toilet paper. And do I look like I can afford to go to Hawaii? Facebook M, do me a favor and keep axing those ads until something useful pops up, like an ad for free trips to Hawaii.
3. Get rid of those ridiculous Instagram filters. Why is it that everyone wants to make their pictures look like they were taken by a Polaroid in the 80s or in an old Western saloon? Facebook M, please, unfilter all the filters.
4. Find something nice to say for my friend's birthday. I like my friends. I like celebrating their birthdays. But Facebook friends aren't all friends, you know? So every day I struggle to come up with something nice to say to an almost stranger on their birthday. Facebook M, use your database to find the thing we have in common, and write a joke about, k?
5. Shop for friend's birthdays. Facebook supposedly knows us better than we know ourselves. It ought to be able to buy a present for my real friends that they'll like, right? Do it, Facebook M.
6. LOL for me. Really. How often do you laugh out loud alone in a room? In fact, Facebook says finally we're ditching LOL, so "haha" for me, too, please.
7. Beat that Candy Crush level. Really. I can't do it. I want to play the next level. Win it for me. But don't use those free color bombs. I'm saving them.
8. Ask Cortana to remind me it is my wedding anniversary. I'm too busy to talk to both of you. You do it.
9. Finish this political argument with my second cousin once removed. I thought it would be a single post. Now it is 10. Please, Facebook M, finish this argument. I don't want to give up, but I have stuff to do.
10. Protect my privacy. Never mind. That's too much to ask from Facebook.