You can expect to hear a lot more about chatbots in the very near future.
In particular, you can expect to hear about Facebook’s bots. The company recently announced its plans for chatbots in its Messenger app, which has 900 million users worldwide.
Given its enormous reach, user base, and marketing potential, anything Facebook does tends to grab the attention of industries around the world. You’d do well to keep up on progress in the world of bots, as it’s possible that the functions of many of the world’s most popular apps will eventually be performed by bots in messenger.
What Is a Bot?
A bot is a piece of software designed to perform some automated task in place of a human being. A company might choose to make use of a bot for any umber of reasons: to save time on tasks that require a lot of data processing, to avoid extremely mundane and repetitive work, or simply to save on overall labor, among others.
The bots that Facebook is interested in are chatbots. The job of a chatbot is to hold a conversation with a human user in hopes of accomplishing some task. Bots have been around for many years, and although chatbots are a more recent addition to the world of technology, it’s likely that you’ve already interacted with a few; Twitter has bots that are capable of replying to you, and Hi Poncho already has a chatbot in Facebook Messenger.
At the most general level, messenger’s chatbots will fit into your contact list, and you can message the bot using the very same interface with which you message friends. The difference is that the recipient of the message is a chatbot, and the purpose of your sending the message is to accomplish some task.
To take just one example, Burger King plans to release a Messenger chatbot that can take your order. The bot can ask you questions just like a human. It can ask if you want to add anything to your order, if you’re finished ordering, what sides you’d like and so on. Basically, it does the job of an app or a human being but through messenger.
The hope is that companies all around the world will develop messenger chatbots. CNN already offers a personalized summary of the news, and the day could come when all your news weather, business, banking, and shopping is done on Messenger. The possibilities for making savings on time and money are obvious.
Chatbots are able to learn your preferences over time. For instance, an H&M chatbot might slowly acquaint itself with your fashion-related likes and dislikes. And this ability to learn can only become more sophisticated over time.
Problems with Chatbots
The obvious concern, given what’s just been said about chatbots’ ability to learn, is that users will receive marketing spam. And this worry can only concern you more when you consider that Facebook intends to use its customers’ data in concert with Messenger chatbots to provide personalized marketing. The intention is to allow companies to communicate with you about products it believes you make like using Messenger.
At the moment, users need not worry too much about spam; Facebook currently charges $99 for the use of customer matching, which should ward spammers off. And it’s true that there will be a ‘block’ button. But it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Further concerns have been raised regarding excessive levels of excitement in the industry. It’s premature, according to a number of experts, to see chatbots as suddenly replacing apps. And the technology has a long way to go. The infamous failures of Microsoft’s Tay are undoubtedly still on the industry’s mind. However, at this stage, it appears that chatbots are steadily progressing in the right direction.
Naturally, there are also privacy concerns. Integrating the majority of the daily tasks with the Messenger app puts Facebook in charge of an astonishing quantity of data. This worry is a familiar one, and it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.
What Does Facebook See in the Future of Chatbots?
It was only a few months ago that Facebook released its plans for chatbots in Messenger. The first benefit, as mentioned above, would be the marketing data that it can then provide to companies. There’d also be a charge for using Facebook’s systems to develop a bot for your company.
And then there are the advertising possibilities. Facebook could use Messenger to suggest particular businesses to a user, thereby making messenger an advertising space with a colossal audience. And ultimately, of course, the purpose is simply to get more people using messenger for longer periods of time.
This brings us the implications of Facebook’s chatbots on the broadest level. Though many have counselled a tempering of expectations, the fact is that Messenger could be the site of almost all your online interactions in the near future. Almost every business will want to get in on the action. The opportunities here are vast and unprecedented, and every business owner would do well to keep themselves in touch with the world of Facebook’s chatbots.