But for Facebook, chatbots (as part of a larger AI focus) may well represent the next big frontier, and through its popular Messenger app, the company has already taken important strides in making key inroads. “This is the start of a new era," David Marcus, Facebook vice-president, messaging products, was quoted as saying by Wired. “Everybody wanted websites when the web was launched. And then everybody wanted apps."
Earlier this week, at Facebook’s annual F8 developers’ conference at San Francisco, it announced a collection of chatbots that were ready for use on Facebook Messenger.
During his on-stage announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We think you should message a business just the way you would message a friend." He laughed, “To order flowers on 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again." 1-800-Flowers, by the way, is one of the many businesses Facebook has signed up as part of its initial chatbots push.
Facebook has also opened up the Messenger platform for developers to come up with chatbots that essentially makes the app the go-to place for people to order a pizza, send flowers or even get news and weather updates.
It also opened a bot store, just like other messenger apps like Telegram and Kik, who did the same last week. The significance of Facebook’s chatbots push comes from the ever-growing user base and popularity of the Messenger app. As of this week, it boasts of over 900 million monthly active users.
Chatbots, if successful, could also help Facebook monetise its Messenger app “at some point", something Marcus mentioned at the F8. “In the future, if we have enough really awesome experiences between businesses and people, I am sure we will figure out a way to monetize at some point."
Here’s a list of the bots that are currently available on Messenger.
1-800-FLOWERS.COM, according to a Facebook press release, “will offer customers the ease and convenience of ordering floral gifts through Messenger. 1-800-FLOWERS.COM will blend its bot and live customer service support on Messenger to serve as ‘gift concierges’ and answer questions, make gifting suggestions, process orders, send shipping updates and provide an array of other important information such as gift reminders".
Facebook said that CNN was using bots for messenger “for people to get CNN news and information in a personalized, private message. People can now chat directly with CNN to get breaking news and specific stories by messaging CNN with a keyword to receive related stories".
3) Wall Street Journal
Similar to the CNN bot in the operational sense, the WSJ bot will also give users the latest headlines from the website. However, given its coverage of the stock markets, the WSJ bot allows users to “get live stock quotes by typing ‘$’ followed by a ticker symbol. Or you can type ‘lookup’ followed by the company name".
The HealthTap bot will essentially allow users to instantly seek any health-related information from its network of doctors. “Anyone can type a question into Messenger and receive free and trusted doctor answers wherever they are and whenever they need them."
Poncho, according to Facebook “is using bots on Messenger to send people real time local weather reports, including a new on-boarding experience and scheduled weather pushes based on your preference during on-boarding". The developer’s goal, as described in a TechInsider piece, is “to build the chattiest, friendliest bot that would actually become a part of your daily routine".
Operator is a shopping bot, which allows people to discover and shop on the go, with assistance from the company’s “network of experts and bots who help consumers find and purchase the best things from around the world".
HP’s bot will help its customers “print their photos, documents and files to any connected HP printer as well as receive notifications to re-order toner cartridges".
The Spring Bot, as described by Facebook, is a “personal shopping concierge powered by the Messenger Send/Receive API, Send to Messenger plugin and Zopim live chat".
9) Sequel Stories
Sequel Stories, a fiction storytelling bot, allows users “a selection of choose-your-own adventure stories".