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Facebook's F8 Has The Digerati Chatting About Bots

Facebook’s F8 Has The Digerati Chatting About Bots

Chatbots that get down to business by interacting with your past and potential customers will be one of the major attractions at F8, the Facebook developers conference that opens tomorrow morning. There are no more physical seats available at Fort Mason in San Francisco but you can watch it all live — alas, still in 2D — by registering here.

Livestreaming, a virtual assistant and 3D are also likely to be on the agenda, too.

“Chatbots could replace 1-800 numbers, and Facebook wants them on Messenger. But most businesses don’t have the resources or technical skills to build chatbots themselves,” writes Josh Constine for TechCrunch. “That’s why Facebook is currently providing developers with API tools to build chatbots and Live Chat web plug-ins for business clients, according to multiple sources and a leaked deck Facebook shared with devs.”

Facebook will announce a bot store that some suggest “could be on the level of the app store in the degree to which it could change technology. Instead of clicking through to an app to look at products from a specific company, they will instead speak or type to the artificially intelligent chatbot,” The Independent’s Andrew Griffin tells us.

But “the robots won’t just be limited to customer service conversations, and could also include tools like push notifications from businesses to tell people that products are back in stock, or from news organizations to tell people about breaking stories,” Griffin continues.

1-800-Flowers.com is one potential partner for the new Messenger services, writes Deepa Seetharaman for the Wall Street Journal, citing a source as well as an earlier report in The Information. “Under one scenario, 1-800-Flowers could contact past customers over Messenger about upcoming holidays such as Mother’s Day and highlight promotions.”

Looking at Messenger from the consumer side of transactions, Facebook “hopes the app can be more than just an alternative to texting, where your contact list includes all of your Facebook friends, writes CNET’s Richard Nieva. “Instead, it’s hoping Messenger becomes a sort of Swiss Army knife, allowing you to pay your roommates rent money, make phone calls and book restaurant reservations.”

If you’ve been wondering what F8 stands for, by the way, Nieva tells us that Facebook has never officially told us,“but some say it’s a nod to the company’s tradition of 8-hour hackathons, marathon coding sprees where engineers try to build a product in one binge.”

Speaking of other products, “on the live video front, Facebook plans to roll out new tools to encourage video creators to broadcast more high-quality video,” reports Kurt Wagner for Re/code. “‘Going live’ on Facebook currently means shooting video on a smartphone, but if Facebook wants to entice major media organizations to use the product, they’ll need to be able to accommodate TV-like production value. F8 would be a good place to start that conversation.”

Facebook is also developing M, a virtual assistant like Apple’s Siri, Alphabet’s Google Now,  Microsoft’s Cortana andAmazon’s Alexa, that “can complete tasks for users, including making travel arrangements and booking appointments,” the WSJ’s Seetharaman reports.

And that is surely not all that is forthcoming from a company that also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus Rift among more than 50 other companies it has acquired since 2005, including the Belarus-based visual effects company MSQRD— for Masquerade — a couple of days ago.

Indeed, “If Facebook were just an advertising company, it would still be the tech behemoth it is today — but a lot less interesting. Over its 12-year history, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reshaped Facebook from a social network into a platform of platforms,” as Alice Truong puts it for Quartz.

“To be sure, it’s the ad business that fuels Facebook’s grand ambitions. Its mission statement is to connect everyone in the world (and to show ads to every last one of them). Beyond that, it’s made a $2 billion gamble on virtual reality, transformed its chat app into a robust platform capable of much more than sending text, and is testing a drone capable of beaming internet to parts of the world lacking it.”

As for bot technology, “analysts predict messaging could one day eclipse social networking as the globe’s favorite online pastime,” Jessica Guynn informs us in USA Today. “About 2.5 billion people have registered to use at least one messaging app, according to technology and strategy consulting firm Activate. By 2018, Activate expects that number to reach 3.6 billion.”

That a sizable audience — no ifs, ands or bots about it.