Facebook Announces M Will No Longer Serve Your Every Whim

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An attendee sits in front of a messenger logo during a Facebook developers conference in San Francisco.
An attendee sits in front of a messenger logo during a Facebook developers conference in San Francisco. Credit: Michael Short/Bloomberg

Say goodbye to M, Facebook's experimental virtual assistant.

The company is shutting down M's services without even letting it leave the testing phase, where it had operated since 2015. The service once seemed to hold the promise of acting as a digital concierge, helping people book hotels, order food, keep their schedules and perform other tasks.

It was a playground for Facebook to experiment with artificial intelligence, which the company says it plans to continue to do. But it also might have become a digital assistant that could compete with Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa and Google. Facebook hasn't developed a smart-speaker for homes either to match the devices from its rivals that have brought their digital assistants into people's living rooms. It's unclear what Facebook's ambitions in the space are now.

"We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. "We're taking these useful insights to power other AI projects at Facebook."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed interest in home automation and artificial intelligence, and built a custom home system he named Jarvis in 2016. Jarvis was voiced by Morgan Freeman, and helped run Zuckerberg's household.

M was backed by a team of people who helped complete tasks when the AI component couldn't handle more sophisticated requests. Facebook said it would reassign the team that had been working in support of M.

M will continue to live on Facebook's Messenger, where it still can pop up with suggestions based on text conversations. For instance, it can offer a link to food if someone says they're hungry. Messenger is Facebook's messaging app, which has become a testing ground for brands to build bots that interact with and help consumers.

"We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment," the Facebook spokeswoman said.

BuzzFeed was the first to report that M would no longer offer personal concierge assistance come Jan. 19.

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