Wednesday 7 December 2016

Facebook Messenger bots are here - what does that mean for you?

Daniel Anderson

Published 13/04/2016 | 09:39

Facebook Messenger
Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger is getting a suite of new features which will make interactions easier than ever through the use of bots

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Facebook Messenger is getting a whole load of new features which are designed to make your life easier. And it's mostly about bots.

Chat bots are software that has been programmed with reponses and information in order to have basic conversations with humans. If you've ever logged into a livechat system you've probably met one before, with the bot asking for info like your account number before it hopefully puts you in touch with an actual person. Facebook is introducing them in a big way to Messenger, though you really can't tell from this cheery video.

Messenger at F8 from Facebook on Vimeo.

Do you see the moment where the photogenic fellow is looking for a hotel room? That's an interaction with a bot and a new way of interacting with products and services. Facebook also points to the use of bots for live data like weather and traffic updates and information on when your package is shipping. You can chat to CNN for breaking news, play choose your own adventure style games and even order food from Burger King.

We've tried out a few of these services so far and it works pretty much as advertised - there's an attempt to come off as personal with some token greetings and then you can ask questions which are appropriate to the service, with anything else frequently confusing the bot. More specific interactins are possible with multiple choice questions which can do things like confirming your identiy in a weather app or signing you up to future communications from the brand.

Facebook is rolling out this service to more developers now and you'll soon start to see links to these bots on websites, as well as discovery through new Messenger Codes - a visual way to instantly connect with another person on Facebook. They're pretty gorgeous looking too.

It's expected that these bots will also have a role in advertising in the future as once you follow a brand they have permission to contact you with messaging. Facebook is putting measures in place to protect users and to make sure they only see the content they're interested in. You'll be able to easily mute and conversation you don't want and block the page entirely if needs be. They're also promising to keep a close eye on how companies interact with users now and in the future.

The bots are here, and with their introduction into Facebook Messenger you're going to be seeing more non-human interactions than ever before online. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially for queries which could be handled more quickly by an automated service, but for the moment it isn't going to make much of a difference to your everyday browsing of the internet.

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