Facebook believes the updates it has made to its Messenger service could help spark the creation of the next generation of big companies.

The social network, which has more than one billion monthly active users, announced a host of new features for its instant messaging service at the firm's annual developer conference F8.

Messenger has now been turned into a platform, making it accessible to third-party developers, not just Facebook, to add their features and services to the app - for example, by sending app invites to friends who can then download them without leaving Messenger, or being able to create and send GIFs directly in a message.

Director of platform partnerships Julien Codorniou said: "There is a lot of potential - like everything we try to do.

"But we'll see, since it's a platform it will be only as successful as our partners, so we'll see if people can build the next e-commerce company on top of Messenger or the next e-commerce service on top of Messenger Business.

But what's going to be interesting for us right now, and what we've already seen in the last seven days, is to see what developers do with the platform."

Messenger Business was the second major aspect to the app that was overhauled.

Business will now let consumers and brands communicate directly through the app, even being able to confirm and negotiate product orders, as well as setting delivery times and confirming payments.

"People obviously spent a lot of time on Messenger - it has 600 million monthly active users - and nobody likes to call companies to change a shirt that you just bought or a plane ticket," said Mr Codorniou.

"So we believe that people can use Messenger as a channel to communicate with brands and services they use but also for brands to communicate directly with their users.

"A company like Secret Escapes, for example, could use the Messenger channel to communicate new destinations directly to their users on Messenger, and this is something the community was expecting and we think it's a good opportunity."

Unveiling the changes on stage in California last week, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said: "One of the fastest growing and most important members of our family is Messenger."

Mr Codorniou added that he hoped developers who use the new platform would be able to create "the next Facebook".

Though the social network gave no official launch date for the new features, users globally have already started seeing apps appear within Messenger.

The move forms part of the ongoing social media battle with rivals such as Twitter, which recently launched a new app called Periscope that enables users to broadcast live video stream filmed on their smartphones.

Facebook, however, remains in charge of the social arena, with four services it operates - Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp Messenger - all having user numbers that currently exceed Twitter's 284 million.