Facebook’s New Messenger Chatbot Books Airline Tickets, Orders Flowers

In an attempt to lure more users to use Facebook Messenger, the world’s largest social media company has announced the arrival of chatbots.

During the F8 conference, Facebook’s annual event for software developers, Facebook Messenger executive David Marcus announced that they have launched what they call Messenger platform, which came with the recent update.

According to Marcus, this platform is a tool that developers around the world can use in order to build chatbots that can operate within the Messenger app, which currently have over 900 million users worldwide.

These bots will be included in a user’s friends list and are available to provide specific services based on the business or company it represents. Some possible actions that bots can perform include shopping for flowers, providing news, and even booking airline tickets.

“We aren’t just trying to do question and response bots like you see elsewhere, but to have a rich interactive experience inside of threads,” Marcus said in an interview.

During the presentation, Marcus showcased how a specific bot can interact with a user. He used the CNN News Bot to provide some news snippets based on his preferences. The bot fetches some news articles, and he had the option to choose which ones to read.

In case the reader has no more time to read, he may also ask the CNN News Bot to summarize the article for him, as demonstrated by Marcus at the F8 event.

In another demo, Marcus showed how e-commerce website Spring built its Messenger bot. The chatbot can help potential buyers by suggesting different products based on their needs.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also demonstrated how he is capable of ordering flowers from 1-800-Flowers through the Messenger app. The primary goal of the chatbot is to allow Facebook Messenger to do anything.

The new platform also aims to let users deal with businesses while they are talking with friends on Facebook.

“We think you should message a business just the way you would message a friend,” said the Facebook CEO during the conference.

In addition to the ability of the chatbot to respond and interact with users, Facebook also wants to build the platform in such a way that they will soon learn the users’ preferences and tailor results based on that information.

While this innovation may point to more revenue for the social media giant, Marcus said that the company is “not very focused” in using Facebook Messenger to make money.

“In the future, if we have enough really awesome experiences between businesses and people, I am sure we will figure out a way to monetize at some point,” he added.

“M,” Facebook’s artificial intelligence secretary for Messenger, will soon be enjoyed by more businesses; the company already sent out a “bot builder” program to developers.

Marcus says that the company aims to build an automated bot that “learns over time.”

Through the years, the Facebook Messenger app has grown as a multi-purpose application for users. The app can now be used to send photos, GIFs, locations, and even money. If this chatbot platform succeeds, it could revolutionize the way people use Messenger.

Meanwhile, chatbots are already very popular in some Asian markets, particularly WeChat users. In China alone, almost 600 million people are using the app to book doctors’ appointments, pay bills, and even hail taxis.

Right after the announcement, more than a dozen chatbots have been made available for users to try. Another dozen bots will be added soon, according to the Facebook Messenger boss.

[Photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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