Facebook Messenger appears to be testing a new feature that recommends topics of conversation based on people’s recent activities.
The latest attempt is the introduction of “conversation topics” on Messenger – a feature offering suggestions about what to talk about with friends. These conversation starters appear to rely on Messenger’s connection to Facebook’s larger social network, as they reference things your friends have done lately – like where they’ve been, or events they plan to attend, for example.
The feature was spotted this weekend on the iOS app by Chris Messina, who posted to Twitter about the new conversation starters.
— 🕸Chris Messina (@chrismessina) October 16, 2016
The suggested topics have their own dedicated section on the homescreen.
The conversation topic suggestion appears underneath a friend’s name in the new section. To the right is Messenger’s activity indicator, which shows you when the person was last online.
In other cases, the suggested topics might include things like the songs the friend just listened to on a music streaming service, or an event they’ve indicated they’ve said they’re interested via Facebook Events.
The idea behind Conversation Topics is simple: if you’re looking for a way to break the ice with a new Facebook friend or catch up with an old one, these conversation prompts can help you figure out what to talk about.
In addition, the feature would have the added benefit of being a more basic News Feed of sorts, as it lets you catch up on friends’ recent activity, without having to scroll through News Feed and its clutter of shared links, posts from Facebook Pages, ads, and other content.
It’s also worth noting that this Conversation Topics feature isn’t the only thing Facebook is working on in order to better connect Messenger users with those who share similar interests. In September, Messina had also spotted code buried in the Messenger app which pointed to a feature called “Rooms.”
This appears to be an attempt to build public chat rooms on Messenger’s platform around shared topics and interests, and likely has ties to Facebook’s earlier “Rooms” project, now shuttered, which was an experiment in anonymized social networking on Facebook’s part.
It’s unclear for the time being if the Conversation Topics are in any way tied to Messenger’s plans to debut public chat rooms, however.
Most recently, Facebook unveiled Messenger Lite, a basic version of the app—aimed at users in Africa, Asia, and South America—that consumes less data and works across all network conditions. Two days later, Facebook completed its rollout of secret conversations, which provide end-to-end encryption and Snapchat-like features.