2017 has been a big year for chatbots, with many top tech companies making significant development to push them further in the mainstream. From making it easier for businesses to offer bots to empowering users to discover chatbots most relevant to them. A lot has happened in the past year across social media platforms and beyond. Let’s have a look at some of the biggest developments in chatbots this year—and why they matter.
April 2016: Facebook Announces Bots for Messenger at F8 Conference
Okay, so this happened in the spring of 2016, not this year—but it’s important to remember this moment as we trace the recent developments in chatbots, as it was a watershed moment that brought bots to the mainstream. Of course, chatbots already existed and were being used. For example; Kik and Telegram already had them in the west, and WeChat had been using bots for years in the east. But opening bots to Messenger’s then-900 million users was a significant milestone in the adoption and development of bots.
June: Facebook Messenger Introduces Discover Tab
This summer, Facebook introduced the Discover tab on Messenger. This new section of the app allowed users to browse for bots and businesses without leaving the platform. It helps them to discover experiences based on category, businesses they recently visited or bots featured by Facebook. This was significant for a few reasons. First, unlike other bot directories, users could discover bots within the same platform they could begin chatting with them. Second, the move showed botmakers that Facebook was committed to promote bots and raise their visibility. Finally, for the user who might not even be aware that chatbots existed on the platform, the Discover tab overall raised awareness of the technology.
June: Twitter Chatbots Get CTA’s
Another big development happened this summer, this time on Twitter. This update enabled bots to offer contextual buttons that allow users to post a tweet, follow an account and more. These CTA’s take brand interaction outside of the private direct message conversation, and can be instrumental for retaining brand engagement and marketing purposes. For example, users might play a quiz with a bot and then share their score with followers, enticing them to play as well. The move marked Twitter’s willingness to expand chatbots’ usefulness on the platform. In addition, the new features support marketing and entertainment bots on a platform where customer service chatbots were the norm.
September: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Offers Pre-Built Bots
By adding a chatbot service to its enterprise CRM tool, Microsoft made it even easier for large businesses to implement chatbots into their customer service efforts. These chatbots are pre-built and ready to serve immediately; by making it easy as possible for customers to integrate bots into their pre-existing CRM workflows. Microsoft made a huge push to make AI even more mainstream for customer support.
November: PayPal Launches Chat Extension for Messenger
In a push for commerce in conversational UI, PayPal’s new extension makes it easy for buyers to make a purchase without leaving the Messenger app. This is especially useful to your everyday user who might sell things on the platform’s marketplace or many buy and sell groups. That’s right: payments through Messenger aren’t just for businesses and retailers who have the resources to run merchant bots. Now everyone can have a little piece of the pie.
November: Facebook Launches Messenger Plugin for Websites
In our most recent big development in chatbots this year carried out by Facebook. They launched a plugin that lets businesses host a Messenger bot directly on their websites. Again, this isn’t Facebook doing something revolutionary—business sites have hosted chat plugins for a while with services like Smooch—but with a userbase of 1.2 billion monthly users, the plugin is set to increase overall chatbot use. The plugin also allows users to continue the conversation on any device supporting the Messenger platform (desktop, mobile, etc.) which further adds convenience.
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