“Can chatbots replace apps in future?”

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

N Adarsh Varma, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur.

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The Apps era has led to a massive change in the usage of smartphone. Many Smartphone Users feel that the apps have made their life easier to live. But there has been a change in the way we perceive things and Facebook had brought this change by launching chatbots in the messenger.

The bot era has officially begun. Facebook had announced tools for developers to build bots inside Facebook Messenger, bringing a range of new functions to the popular communication app. Facebook believes Messenger can become a primary channel for businesses to interact with their customers, replacing 1-800 numbers with a mix of artificial intelligence and human intervention. If it really works then bots could represent a major new channel for commerce, customer support, and possibly even media and also can be expected to replace apps in future.

The Facebook had already started using the bots with a few partners like Uber, Lyft and KLM, but the latest announcement means that a lot more businesses are about to join the party. One might expect that the bots developed are for customer support or tracking online orders although it can certainly be used for that too but these chatbots are targeted to offer services that range from delivering top news stories to the local weather. The two of its launch partners are a CNN news bot and Poncho, a weather bot that masquerades as a friendly cat.

The question now arises is how to find them. First, you have to download the latest version of Messenger — it should be available on both Android and iOS. Once you launch the app, you’ll find that there’s now a persistent search bar at the top. Tap it and you can start searching for your bot of choice. Once you select a bot, you’ll see a splash page along with a description of what the bot does. Underneath is a “Get started” button. Hit that and the bot will start talking to you.

The tools announced at the company’s F8 developer conference include an API that allows developers to build chat bots for Messenger and chat widgets for the web. Facebook is not the first company to release a bot store for its messaging app. There is a bot store on Telegram and on Kik, which opened its store just last week before this conference. What mainly distinguishes the Facebook’s Store is the amount of scale i.e., more than 900 million people use Messenger every month, dwarfing most of its competitors. For millions of people, Messenger could be the first place they ever encounter a chat bot. And if people embrace bots in large numbers, it could trigger the biggest gold rush in software development since Apple opened the App Store.

Microsoft is already making a substantial move on bots. It had announced its own bot platform during its Build developer conference. Over $80 million has been allocated to spur the development of bots and other utilities that run inside the service.

This shows that in the future the bots play a crucial role in our life similar to the apps playing now in our life. Thanks to the development in technology, we can expect that the chatbots will replace the apps in a smartphone in future because of their comfort in use.

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