Everyone is talking about them. Many are building them. Chat and Messenger Bots are currently one of the hottest topics in the startup ecosphere. Facebook is launching its Messenger Bot Store, and many argue that this will be a game-changer. Soon, instead of hearing “There’s are App for that”, you’ll be hearing “There’s a Bot for that”.
There is an issue here though. Building a chatbot that can do everything for you (e.g. Book a reservation at a hotel, while comparing the cheapest flights and searching where you can drop off your laundry so that it will be ready in three hours) is extremely difficult. You have probably used (or at least heard) of some of them: Siri, Alexa or Cortana.
Technology does not seem to be there yet to make all complex processes happen for you within a single bot. What will ruin the User Experience is having many chats open with different bots from different startups that have focused on helping out with a single thing.
So instead of having a single chatbot as a personal assistant, you would have a dry-cleaning assistant, a travel agent assistant, and bots for everything else you may need. That makes for a cluttered chat inbox. Apart from that, these bots will have to be adapted for the platforms they are used for – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. If you were upset about an app only available for iOS but not for Android, you might soon experience this same feeling again, just this time a lot worse.
There are a couple of possibilities to solve this issue. Industry consolidation is one. If user experience improves across devices, it helps out everyone. So by simplifying and consolidating technology, it will be easier to build bots that collaborate with each other. The downside from the view of the incumbents would be that this lowers entry barriers of course – it would become easier for newcomers to break into the chatbot market.
Another possibility would be metabots – chatbots which handle the requests from multiple other niche bots – basically one bot to rule over all other bots. The business model behind these should be interesting though. If we assume that most bots will work on affiliate models, the metabot will probably charge a fee as well – ideally a metabot would be unnecessary.
A final possibility is the help of the platform the bot is running on. The chat system in which the bot is integrated could take care of the requests, and possibly offer a simplified interface to its users specifically for bots (instead of multiple chat windows, each for a single bot). This seems the most feasible, since it is in the interest of the chat platform to have the user engage more and more. The launch of Facebook’s Messenger Bot Store is highly anticipated. Rumours suggest the new feature will be unveiled at the F8 conference.