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Facebook Messenger to put your favorites first

The social network is rejiggering the interface on Messenger to try to make the app more relevant to your needs.

Facebook Messenger is getting an interface makeover.


Changes to Facebook are coming, and this time you can direct your ire at the messenger -- or Messenger, to be exact.

Instead of seeing your most recent messages, you'll now be able to see people who are currently active on Messenger, the day's birthdays and the people you send messages to most frequently, the social network said Thursday. Think of it as a central hub for what Facebook thinks you care about.

The changes are an attempt to use Facebook's knowledge about you and how you interact with your contacts to provide you with a more relevant messaging experience by placing less priority on chronology. Over 900 million people use Messenger every month, according to Facebook. But with WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) and Google's Hangouts providing a similar service, the company is always looking for ways to distinguish itself. At the start of June, for example, Facebook announced its own emojis.

"Up until now, most inbox experiences haven't kept up with the new ways people connect," Facebook said in a blog post outlining the changes. "We've been thinking about how we can make it simpler and easier to find what you want to start a conversation."

The move reflects wider conversations about how email is lacking, with new products like Slack seeking to replace email in the business world. Facebook Messenger is aimed at a more mainstream audience, but the premise behind shaking up the interface is the same: Put the most relevant conversations and chat options first.

It's unclear how users will react to the changes. Shakeups to Facebook's core features like its News Feed typically prompt early backlash and irritation before things settle down.

In this case, Facebook is "taking a stab at reinventing the inbox," said David Marcus, vice president of messaging products.

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Marcus, speaking at a Wired conference in New York, also touched on Facebook's push to get bots -- bits of artificial intelligence that can understand specific questions -- on Messenger.

"For the first two months of their existence on Messenger, those were overhyped," he said. "But in the very long run, they're underhyped."

You won't just be having text message conversations with bots either. Marcus envisions a "hybrid approach" in which a response is a button you tap to access a service.

"If you go in a thread and ask for something," he said, "the answer doesn't have to be in text."

CNET's Joan Solsman contributed to this report.