Face­book is beef­ing up its huge army of Mes­sen­ger bots as Google and Ama­zon catch up

More than 11,000 Face­book Mes­sen­ger bots stand ready to an­swer your ques­tions, and soon they’ll be able to send you GIFs too, re­ports Ian Paul

PC Advisor - - NEWS -

The bot revo­lu­tion is hap­pen­ing fast for Face­book. Af­ter launch­ing third-party bots ear­lier this year of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from fore­casts to your board­ing pass, the social net­work says there are now more than 11,000 bots ac­tive.

To cel­e­brate this, the com­pany has added a bunch of new fea­tures that could show up on your fa­vorite bots soon – if devel­op­ers en­able them, that is.

Persistent menu

One big prob­lem with bots is that they feel a lit­tle an­ti­quated. Many of them will only re­spond to cer­tain com­mands, which can make the whole ex­pe­ri­ence kind of te­dious. You try a cer­tain com­mand. That doesn’t work, so the bot comes back with a se­lec­tion of com­mands you can use. Then you pick one, and the bot de­liv­ers its in­for­ma­tion.

Hop­ing to over­come this deficit, Face­book is in­tro­duc­ing a persistent menu fea­ture. With a persistent menu, users will al­ways have quick ac­cess to key com­mands for the bot. Devel­op­ers can en­able up to five op­tions on the menu.

Quick replies

Build­ing on some­thing bots can al­ready do, Face­book is of­fer­ing quick-re­ply but­tons to make in­ter­ac­tions with the var­i­ous bots more ef­fi­cient. Many bots al­ready of­fer Yes/No re­sponse but­tons or other next steps, such as view­ing a full news story in your browser.

Now, bots will be able to of­fer up to 10 quick re­sponse but­tons. Only the re­sponse you choose will ap­pear in the chat his­tory. Face­book has said this makes the chat his­tory cleaner and eas­ier to read.

GIFs, au­dio, video, and more

Bots can now send GIFs, au­dio clips, and video clips in their re­sponses, as well as reg­u­lar files. Au­dio and video clips will play in­side Mes­sen­ger. The ob­vi­ous ad­van­tage of this is that bots can of­fer richer re­sponses such as in­struc­tional videos or, if there’s noth­ing bet­ter to do, an en­ter­tain­ing Se­in­feld GIF (see be­low).

Ac­count link­ing

Tak­ing the con­cept of cus­tomer ser­vice a step fur­ther, some bots will let you link your Face­book ac­count with your cus­tomer ac­count. Imagine, for ex­am­ple, link­ing your mo­bile phone ac­count to Face­book Mes­sen­ger. That would let you take care of some ba­sic tasks in­side Mes­sen­ger, such as re­quest­ing your monthly bill bal­ance or find­ing out about ad­di­tional ser­vices.

The rea­son this mat­ters is that the race is on be­tween the ma­jor tech com­pa­nies to make smart bots the next great fron­tier for con­sumer tech­nol­ogy. Face­book dom­i­nates with thou­sands of avail­able bots, and now new fea­tures to make the bots more user­friendly. But Google is ex­pected to make a strong show­ing once its re­cently an­nounced Google As­sis­tant is more widely avail­able. Ama­zon’s Alexa is pop­u­lar on the com­pany’s Echo prod­ucts and in­te­grates with third­party devel­op­ers. Mi­crosoft is adding bots to Skype, and push­ing its “con­ver­sa­tions as a plat­form” con­cept. Ap­ple ap­pears to be fur­thest be­hind with no pur­pose-built bot in sight. Re­cently, how­ever, Ap­ple an­nounced Siri would open up to third-party devel­op­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.