RIP Facebook M: Mark Zuckerberg confirms he’s shelving the site’s Siri and Cortana rival

It’s hardly surprising, given the rise in smart assistants and their ubiquitiy in homes in recent months, but Facebook has confirmed it’s planning to shut down it AI bot M.

RIP Facebook M: Mark Zuckerberg confirms he's shelving the site's Siri and Cortana rival

Launched as somewhat an experiment in 2015, Facebook made M available to around 2,000 people living in California through its Messenger app. M used a mix of AI and humans to offer assistance to its users. Now, according to The Verge, Facebook is giving up on the service and its last day of operation will be 19 January.  

Facebook added, though, that certain features will continue in the form of M Suggestions, a separate service.

“Today we shared with the people who have access to our M closed beta project, first announced in August 2015, that January 19th is the last day the service will be available,” a statement explained. “We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot.”

What was Facebook M?

 Like Siri and Cortana, and more recently Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, M used AI to help with requests, under the supervision of a team of human “M Trainers”. While the app’s AI could handle more simple requests, it would also forward more complex cases to Facebook’s customer services team.

In particular, by using a combination of human and AI elements, the app was able to help you find venues, buy gifts, book holidays and much more.

A Facebook post by David Marcus, the company’s vice president of messaging products, at the time of launch said: “Today we’re beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf.” But Facebook only trialled M with a “a few hundred” users in the San Francisco area.

Facebook M nestled inside Facebook’s existing Messenger app, and using it was similar to talking to any other of your contacts. During its trial period, the app was used by employees to track down hard-to-find items, and used its human element to endure lengthy hold times. 

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