Facebook to launch group chatbots at F8 conference
Facebook's F8 annual global developer conference is set to be held in San Jose from 18th to 19th April.
According to a report by TechCrunch, the conference will see Facebook introduce a set of group chatbots that will work inside the Messenger.
Individual chatbots were first introduced in Messenger at the 2016 F8 conference, but failed to get much traction due to various drawbacks.
Facebook's new chatbots
Problems faced by chatbots released in 2016
The chatbots released by Facebook in 2016 were marred by their inability to live up to the massive hype surrounding them.
There was an expectation that the chatbots would resemble human conversation partners, but due to inadequate AI technology, the bots couldn't always comprehend questions properly.
There was also the absence of a mechanism to browse or find chatbots.
Expectations were the problem
"The problem was it got really overhyped, very, very quickly. The basic capabilities we provided at the time weren't good enough to basically replace traditional app interfaces and experiences," said Facebook's head of Messenger, David Marcus, about the failure of the 2016 chatbots.
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What exactly are these chatbots expected to do?
The group chatbots in Messenger are not expected to be particularly chatty, but will serve mainly as tools for delivering news.
For instance, a football fans Messenger group could add a football bot which would update them in real-time on match scores, big games, football news, and so on.
Group members, apart from using third-party bots, can also create their own bots.
Can group bots solve earlier issues?
The new Messenger bots will resemble information bots more than they resemble actual discussion partners, and as a result there will be less pressure on them to act human.
Secondly, bots in Messenger group chats will create a platform for the discovery and viral growth of bots as service providers - one person adding a bot will inadvertently inform several people of their existence.
What about bot discovery systems?
One major problem with Messenger's bot system is that there is no directory or bot store.
A user has to type in the name of a bot in the search bar to talk to one.
It is still unclear as to how Facebook expects users to be aware of bots, but new bot discovery options could well be part of the announcements at F8.