Facebook have held the F8 conference for 2016, and one of the major announcements is the move to make the Messenger app the one-stop shop for your daily needs, using AI bots to answer queries and set up orders.
Potentially kicking off another ‘Facebook goldrush’, the bot API (application programming platform) will be opened up to let anyone have a go at creating one of these new Messenger bots.
So what will they actually do?
Millions of people use Facebook’s Messenger app daily, keeping in contact with their friends and families. The bots will act as a friendly interface to the online world, letting us use them to carry out actions, like booking a hotel room or buying goods online that we’d usually do via a computer or by phone.
Chief of Messenger, David Marcus, said that an “increasing portion of your life is going to be spent inside of those threads, with bots and businesses that are going to leverage the tools that we announced today to build those.”
While this definitely has some benefits, and will put life in the palm of our hands, there are some worries about whether it will become an infringement on our privacy and peace. There is a fear that companies will be able to message us at any time, disturbing an otherwise simple and private app.
“No bots or businesses can actually start an interaction with you, unless you want to,” Marcus explained. “We built very prominent user controls at the top of every thread that enables you to block a specific type of message, or a whole thread altogether if you don’t want to receive more messages from it.”
When questioned about the safety and protection of our accounts, which could, through the bots, be able to access bank accounts or access other parts of our lives, Marcus said it was a positive on the security side, as Facebook has world class security, and the new applications of the app will let them develop security even more. He said that Facebook are more well equipped to look after their users’ data than a lot of smaller companies that deal with sensitive data online.
Online bots haven’t had a great history, as Microsoft’s Tay recently experienced, but the hope is that Facebook will be able to pull this off and make bots that can hold their own in an actual conversation.
All the bots on Messenger will feed back to, and be fed by, a central ‘brain’ known as the Bot Engine, so the more that any of the bots are used, the smarter they all will get… in theory.
It will be interesting to see how the new tech pans out, and whether it really will revolutionise the online world, or just clog up a perfectly good messaging app.