We’ve known since last year Facebook’s ultimate goal for Messenger was to turn it into a full fledged platform for apps and businesses. We’ve already seen this by way of apps like Giphy, but the next phase of this is to allow businesses and users to connect in a more natural way.
They’re doing this via “Bots for Messenger,” helpful chatbots posing as customer service agents that can respond to questions about an order or just about anything else. It’s like a mix of artificial intelligence and direct human messaging, right there in the Messenger app you’re already using. Facebook announced the feature during their F8 developer conference this morning, with the first few services already live on Android and iOS.
The beta version of the Messenger Platform is also going live today, giving developers the opportunity to get started creating all sorts of useful little bots for the app. On stage, Head of Messenger David Marcus showed off a weather bot available right now called Poncho. The bot provides a conversational-style view of the weather and can ping you during specific times about the weather, or just during adverse conditions (high humidity, that sorta thing). You can access Poncho right now in Messenger simply by searching for its name like any other contact. No downloading or installing anything — it just works.
Facebook mentions they’ll be experimenting with sponsored messages from businesses which, we’ll admit, sounds spammy and altogether terrible depending on how it plays out. Zucks & Co did mention that you can always mute and/or block messages, which is a nice touch.
Smart messaging is all the rage these days. Kik actually already beat Messenger to the punch, announcing chatbots headed to their messaging service last week. When it comes to Google, they purchased the the “smart” messaging client Emu almost 2 years ago, a service some guessed they’d eventually find itself integrated inside of Hangouts. We’re still not sure what’s going on with that, but the most recent rumors suggested Google was hard at work on a completely new smart messaging app, complete with chatbots to help answer questions. Sound familiar?