There are already about 100,000 monthly active Facebook Messenger bots out there right now, but a new suite of tools released at Facebook’s F8 conference this week could lead to a lot more.
The new features, dubbed Messenger Platform 2.0, add more visual and social capabilities for bot builders and ways for users to find them. The Discover feature creates a way for users to browse bots by showcasing popular ones, nearby places that people can message, and businesses that offer support or answer questions.
At F8, Facebook’s Vice President of Messenger David Marcus said the ability to browse bots gives Messenger a chance to become “the yellow pages of messaging.”
A new feature called Chat Extensions lets users create shopping lists, order food, split payments and share music, among other things, all within a conversation on Messenger. Marcus showed off an example by dropping a song into a conversation using Spotify’s chat extension.
Small businesses will enjoy the “smart replies” feature, which uses automation technology to answer simple questions from customers via Messenger. Marcus said this feature will start with restaurants, allowing them to save time by not having to answer simple questions like how late the business is open.
Messenger’s digital assistant, M, can now prod users with potential actions thanks to Messenger Platform 2.0. For example, if a group is talking about getting dinner, M will suggest placing an order with Delivery.com.
Messenger has become a powerhouse communication system over the years, despite requiring users to download a separate app from Facebook. The social media giant said there are more than 1.2 billion monthly users on Messenger.
As Facebook was rolling out the new tools for bot builders, several companies announced bots of their own. Subway announced a bot that allows fans of the giant chain eatery to order a sandwich or salad, customize it with bread, cheese, vegetables, and sauce choices and pay on any device that supports Messenger. Users can then pick up their order from any of 26,500 Subway locations in the U.S. in 15 minutes or less.
The NBA’s Golden State Warriors announced a virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence. The chatbot, built by Chatfuel, will engage with fans on a 1-on-1 basis within Facebook Messenger and provide live news updates, highlights, player stats, and help purchasing tickets or merchandise. For fans at Oracle Arena watching the top-seeded Warriors, who are facing off against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, the bot can show the nearest concession stand and provide traffic or parking updates.