Description: Can a new wave of chatbots from Facebook and Microsoft upend apps as we know them, or is that just wishful thinking?
Source: Fast Company
Date: April 22, 2016
The rise of conversational “chatbots” begins with a claim you might initially dismiss as preposterous. “Bots are the new apps,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella declared during the company’s Build developers conference last month. “People-to-people conversations, people-to-digital assistants, people-to-bots, and even digital assistants-to-bots. That’s the world you’re going to get to see in the years to come.”
Nadella is not alone in seeing bots as a radical change in how we interact with computers. Beyond Microsoft—which is now offering bots within Skype to help you book hotels and flights, and a bot-building tool suite for developers—other major tech players are jumping in. Facebook is bringing a suite of chatbots to Messenger to help you order flowers or check the weather, taking a page from other messenger apps like WeChat and Kik. Slack allows third-party chatbots for work that can coordinate lunch or order supplies. Around these efforts, an entire industry has sprung forth, as smaller startups build their own bots and bot-related tools.
Certainly, Nadella’s assertion about the rise of chatbots contains a dose of hyperbole—a chatbot isn’t going to replace every application you might want on a computer—but that doesn’t mean bots don’t matter. Just as smartphone apps made us rethink how we interact with computers, bots could have a similarly transformative effect. And the ones who are betting on it now, like Nadella and Mark Zuckerberg, will have the last laugh.
Questions for discussion:
1. Why talk to a bot when you can browse a website?
2. Can bots really replace apps?