eCommerce

Facebook Messenger's 11,000 Bot Expansion

According to reports emerging late last week, over 11,000 new chatbots have hit the beach on Facebook's Messenger, with 23,000 developers waiting in the wings after having signed up for the platform's bot engine.

“We’re looking forward to building a future of amazing Messenger experiences powered by the community of developers, businesses and people who use Messenger every day,” Facebook’s VP of messaging products David Marcus said in a post on Thursday announcing the figures.

The chatbots — which are powered largely by the applied machine learning teach and Wit.ai, a startup Facebook snatched up about a year ago — got their pubic introduction at Facebook's F8 conference earlier this year. Facebook is not alone is advancing on the boat-powered frontier; Kik, Slack and Microsoft have all built bot platforms of their own of late.

However, before the fanfare gets too overwhelming it does need to be noted that Facebook has not released the number of users for Messenger bots, nor has bot technology always received a round of applause from the consumers who've encountered it.

But refinements are on the way. Marcus, with the announcement of the expansion, also introduced some new tools including a chat-rating tool, a mute button, suggested replies for users and account linking between users’ customer and Messenger accounts. Bot are already able to do a variety of functions — track spots scores, order clothes, manage personal finance apps, booking travel — but how those abilities can be fully leveraged by retailers going forward remains to be seen. Bots are also seen as the natural compliment to M, the Messenger-based virtual assistant currently available to about 10,000 of Facebook Messenger's 900 million monthly users.

And while "M" could perhaps someday take on Alexa or Siri, for now Facebook's focus seems to be on the bots.

“We’ve seen a ton of developer interest, and a lot of great use cases have taken off,” Facebook Messenger product manager Seth Rosenberg said in a phone interview. “Messaging is already the No. 1 thing that people do with friends on their phone. Imagine a world where it’s the central hub for all of the businesses you care about.”

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