At F8, Facebook didn’t disappoint: they released their Bot SDK. Quick summary: bots are always linked to a Facebook Page. There are web widgets to drive users to opt-in. There’s a new search bar for bot discovery in Messenger. Custom UI elements will extend plain text and photos/videos.
Also, a first batch of approved bots were announced, and they are not particularly impressive: CNN is constantly bothering me with pushes, and Spring bot is very inflexible and too tied to the custom UI cards.
We should be patient. My first Android apps, back in 2009, were very basic, and rather ugly, but users loved them anyway. With bots, we’re in learning mode, so we’ll be reviewing the interaction, iterating, and making our bots more and more flexible. Let’s get back to work and deliver delightful experiences, the responsibility is on us.
Facebook, Kik and Telegram seem to share the same view for this first phase of this “new” paradigm: UI elements that guide the user through the conversation. Facebook with his custom cards, and Telegram and Kik with their custom keyboards.
Some views on the first bots that were released for Messenger, together with the official announcement of the API. In short: they are not that smart, at least from the perspective of industry writers. However, what about the random Messenger user that discovered 1-800-Flowers by chance? Did they dislike the experience, or were they amazed? That’s what I want to know.
The most advanced bot platform made a major update the day before F8. It added location permissions and on-the-fly message editing and inline keyboards that allow you to interact without even typing. It’s worth checking out the many features it currently supports to study the variety of interactions you can have in 1-to-1 and group conversations with a bot. We, as many others, have been using Telegram as a playground, and will keep following it closely.
Building bots is so cool. But now, how do users discover them? From Facebook ads with a “Message us” CTA, to search, messenger widgets in websites or even bot stores. I hope Messenger/Kik codes take off in the offline world (unlike QRs, that didn’t go that far).