Facebook is shutting down its standalone personal assistant “M”

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It was a fun experiment, but it’s time to shut it down. M users received messages today that Facebook is sunsetting the service on January 19th. The company confirmed the news in a statement to The Verge.

Facebook first introduced M back in August 2015. While the plan was to progressively roll it out to all users, it has remained in private beta since its initial launch.

M was an innovative feature in 2015. At the time, Amazon just launched the Echo and Google Assistant wasn’t around yet. Facebook used Messenger and text-based interactions for its personal assistant.

But M’s secret sauce wasn’t artificial intelligence — it was good old humans. Behind the scenes, M relied on humans to answer the most complicated queries. For instance, you could book a table at a restaurant, order flowers, organize your next vacation and more using M. Facebook leveraged its acquisition of Wit.ai to develop M.

Eventually, Facebook hoped that those humans would help train the artificial intelligence model to rely less and less on humans. According to The Verge, people who were working on M will be offered other jobs at Facebook.

The name M isn’t going to die altogether, though. Facebook now offers AI-powered suggestions in Messenger conversations. For instance, if you’re planning to grab drinks with a friend, Messenger can suggest to set up a reminder. If somebody is asking you where you are, M will suggest sending your location.

While the name is similar, those AI-powered features are quite different from the concierge feature. But most users never interacted with the personal assistant in the first place.

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