- At Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, which takes place on April 18 and 19 in San Jose, Calif., the social media giant is expected to launch a new type of chatbot that operates inside group chats on Messenger, according to a report in TechCrunch.
- The new bots can be added to a group thread to provide real-time updates such as sports scores and lunch deliveries, per the article, citing three sources familiar with the feature’s development.
- Leading chatbot developers are reportedly already working on their own group chatbots and could be part of the F8 announcement. Facebook is expected to also open the API to other developers.
Chatbots made a big splash last year and a number of brands and developers quickly jumped in, hoping to reach the growing legions of messaging app users with one-to-one conversations. However, it quickly became clear that the technology, while eventually expected to be big, was still in the early stages and lacked finesse. As a result, some early bots did not deliver the large audiences or repeat use that marketers had hoped for.
Facebook appears to be trying to address some of the initial limitations with chatbots via the new group offering. The news follows closely on the heels of real-time location coming to Messenger, another potentially brand-friendly development.
By enabling group chats to add in a way to track news from a developer or marketers in real-time, this takes bots away from their initial one-to-one conversation approach and makes them more of an informational widget. As such, the focus won’t be replicating a human-like interaction and will be more on utility. TechCruch offers a couple of examples of how they might be used, like adding a bot to a group thread about football that reports scores and other news. In another example, coworkers could monitor the arrival time of a lunch order.
Group bots also have the potential to address the issue of discovery, as there is currently no easy way for Messenger users to find new bots. If one user adds a bot to the group thread, this then exposes it to the entire group, thereby potentially raising the profile of that particular bot as well as bots in general.
Ultimately, as the artificial intelligence behind bots continues to improve, one-to-one engagements are expected to take off. In the meantime, the report of group chatbots suggests messaging platforms are looking at ways to make the interfaces more useful in the here and now.
For a look at how group chatbots on Messenger could extend the platform into Google Assistant territory, check out Andrew Hutchinson's analysis over at Social Media Today.