Facebook will launch group chatbots at F8

Facebook will reveal at its F8 conference a new class of group bots that work inside Messenger group chats. These group bots can keep users informed about real-time news such as a sports games progress, e-commerce deliveries and more, according to three sources familiar with the development of the feature.

Facebook is already working with top chatbot makers to prepare for the launch. Facebook will open up APIs to allow more developers to start building group bots, too. When asked for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said we dont comment on rumors or speculation, but my sources confirm this is coming.

For example, a Messenger group of football fans could add a sports bot to their thread, where it could report score changes, big plays and other news from the game. Ane-commerce group bot could keep a group of coworkers informed about the status of their lunch delivery, letting them know that the order is being prepared and when it arrives.

Facebook Messenger already features sports news bots from media property theScore and the NBAs Sacramento Kings, plus food-delivery bots like those from Dominos. Soon they could be equipped to keep a whole group for friends in the know.

The group bots launch could address two big problems with the Messengerbot platform Facebook launched last year at F8 that TechCrunch previously reported was coming.

First, the group bots will act more like news tickers instead of trying to pretend to be a human discussion partner. Theyre not really chatbots as much as they are information bots as people wont be having the same back-and-forth conversations as they do with one-on-one chatbots.

Unripened AI technology and poor understanding of questions led many users to be disappointed with Facebooks chatbots. Facebooks head of Messenger David Marcus admitted at TechCrunch Disrupt that The problem was it got really overhyped, very, very quickly. The basic capabilities we provided at the time werent good enough to basically replace traditional app interfaces and experiences.

Since these group bots wont be the sole conversation partner, there will be less pressure on them to act human, and more opportunity for them to service a specific utility.

Second, their existence in group chats will provide a viral growth mechanism for bots, which dont have easy discovery channels already.

Currently, users have to type a bots name into Messengers search box to start a conversation with one. Theres no native way to browse for bots, so businesses have to either get the bots exact name drilled into peoples heads through marketing or get them to initiate a conversation with a bot through a Facebook News Feed ad. Thats led to the emergence of little-known third-party browsing options like Botlist.

With group bots, one user could add a bot to a thread, thereby exposing its existence to other friends in the group. Both particular bots and the whole bots platform could see a rise in recognition and audience, which might attract higher-profile developers and brands to build them.

Its still unclear how exactly users will find and add bots to threads. Facebook doesnt have a bot store or suggester, but perhaps more bot discovery options will be part of the slew of announcements slated for Facebooks big yearly F8 development conference on April 18th and 19th in San Jose. Well be there to confirm todays scoop and provide analysis of the rest of the news Facebook reveals.

While truly conversational AI will eventually rise to proficiency, Facebook is smart to refocus on group bot technology that can reliably solve real needs today.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/29/facebook-group-bots/