Thursday, November 10, 2016

Facebook Messenger boss admits bots are a work in progress

Facebook has admitted that until now its Messenger chat bots have been somewhat rudimentary.
The company, which launched chat bots for Messenger back in April, purposefully prevented users from discovering businesses within the app because the technology wasn’t ready, a top executive has said.
“The first websites were really bad, the first apps were terrible. And the first bots weren’t great either,” David Marcus, vice president of Facebook Messenger, told the Telegraph at technology conference Web Summit.

Six months after it launched chat bots, Facebook is adding a new feature that will make it easy for users to engage with businesses in Messenger. From today, when users click on an advert in their News Feed it could open a conversation in Messenger with the company.  
“Companies and developers can buy adverts in the News Feed that will get them a lot of traffic in Messenger,” said Marcus.
Facebook said that early uses of chat bots, by companies including the airline KLM and drinks makers Absolut, have proven successful. KLM, for example, has a bot that can provide customers with their travel itineraries and boarding passes within Messenger, as well as help them reschedule flights.
Facebook, which said “millions of conversations” occur between businesses and customers every day, expects there to be a dramatic uptick in the number of helpful bots on its platform. “Gradually the flywheel is starting to work on our behalf,” said Marcus.
There are currently 34,000 developers working on bots for Messenger.
Facebook's Messenger is head-to-head in a fight with Apple’s iMessage, Google’s Allo, Microsoft’s Skype, and its own WhatsApp to be the most useful chat app.
The billion-user social network will be hoping that third party bots can distinguish Messenger from the other apps, of which iMessage now has apps, Skype has bots, and Duo has the intelligent Assistant.
While Facebook is going to encourage users and businesses to contact one another on Messenger, it won’t be launching its own intelligent assistant M for a while.
“We want to make sure that it’s meaningful and useful to people,” said Marcus. “It’s still a work in progress.”

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