Facebook is opening up Messenger to third-party chat bots with a new API that the company announced during its F8 developers conference on Tuesday. This will make it possible to interact with businesses and individual apps inside the chat service.
The possibilities are virtually endless for Messenger chat bots, but the most obvious applications are mostly business focused. For example, you can chat with a 1-800-FLOWERS bot to quickly order some flowers instead of actually picking up the phone. “You never have to call 1-800-FLOWERS again,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joked.
You can also shop for clothing and shoes in Messenger or check the news with chat bots from media companies like CNN. Facebook also previewed a few more playful options, including a wise-cracking digital cat called Poncho that can tell you the weather. You can search for available chat bots inside Messenger the same way you’d search for people and groups.
The platform was designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible. The interface is a mix of natural conversation and traditional buttons, which Facebook believes is the best approach to these types of interactions.
Facebook isn’t the only company investing in chat bots. Microsoft announced similar plans at its BUILD developers conference last month, and there are plenty of smaller companies offering similar specialized services. Still, with its massive user base, Facebook Messenger could have a major advantage in this budding new market.