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Facebook Improves Messenger's Maps

Facebook updates its messaging platform with a new suite of location services.

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Facebook's Messenger application is fast becoming a one stop communication shop. On Thursday, the social network added a handful of new location features to it, transforming it into a bare-bones maps application.

Previously, Messenger had only permitted the sharing of a user's current location, and then only from within a chat. With a new update today, the app has given users the ability to message their location to others. It's also added a search feature that can be used to find businesses, landmarks and other locations and message those as well.

"When you show someone [the new mapping features] and they say 'why didn't this exist before?' you know that you're on the right path," Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook Messenger's Head of Product told BuzzFeed News.

Chudnovsky's end goal is to keep users inside Messenger. By adding a robust location option to Messenger chats, Facebook hopes to prevent them from leaving the app to seek mapping information from rivals like Google -- or from using competing messaging platforms like Apple's iMessage, which doesn't offer the same level of in-app mapping functionality.

Today's Messenger update is the second to focus on mapping and location, and it seems there's a third coming soon. Chudnovsky declined to explain exactly what that might be, saying simply: "We're on a long journey." But directions and transit information seem an obvious next step. Google already offers both. And a forthcoming update to Apple's iOS operating system is expected to bring some transit information to the company's Maps offering this year.

Facebook is already experimenting with businesses and payments, making functions like reservations, ticket purchases, and tailored recommendations a looming possibility for Messenger as well. If the fast clip of additions continue, Messenger is going to become a bridge between maps, payments and chats before long.

Brendan Klinkenberg is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Brendan Klinkenberg at brendan.klinkenberg@buzzfeed.com.

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