Chatbots – also known as “conversational agents” – are software applications that mimic written or spoken human speech for the purposes of simulating a conversation or interaction with a real person. There are two primary ways chatbots are offered to visitors: via web-based applications or standalone apps. Today, chatbots are used most commonly in the customer service space, assuming roles traditionally performed by living, breathing human beings such as Tier-1 support operatives and customer satisfaction reps.
Chatbot, when it plays its role as a virtual representative of an enterprise, is widely used by businesses outside of the US, primarily in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Australia. Additionally, the usage of this term is quite popular amongst amateur AI enthusiasts willing to spend vast amounts of time on their own intelligent creations (with diverse outcomes).
Simple chatbots work based on pre-written keywords that they understand. Each of these commands must be written by the developer separately using regular expressions or other forms of string analysis. If the user has asked a question without using a single keyword, the robot can not understand it and, as a rule, responds with messages like “sorry, I did not understand”.
This form of artificial intelligence was first developed by MIT Professor Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960’s and named ELIZA. It wasn’t until 2011, when chatbots had a resurgence with the inception of WeChat in China. Customers could create chatbots on this platform and interact with one another seamlessly. In 2016, Facebook introduced its own chatbots which paved the way for this form of artificial intelligence to enter and interact with mainstream media consumption.
There has been a great deal of controversy about the use of bots in an automated trading function. Auction website eBay has been to court in an attempt to suppress a third-party company from using bots to traverse their site looking for bargains; this approach backfired on eBay and attracted the attention of further bots. The United Kingdom-based bet exchange Betfair saw such a large amount of traffic coming from bots that it launched a WebService API aimed at bot programmers, through which it can actively manage bot interactions.
A malicious use of bots is the coordination and operation of an automated attack on networked computers, such as a denial-of-service attack by a botnet. Internet bots can also be used to commit click fraud and more recently have seen usage around MMORPG games as computer game bots. A spambot is an internet bot that attempts to spam large amounts of content on the Internet, usually adding advertising links. More than 94.2% of websites have experienced a bot attack.
“Beware though, bots have the illusion of simplicity on the front end but there are many hurdles to overcome to create a great experience. So much work to be done. Analytics, flow optimization, keeping up with ever changing platforms that have no standard. For deeper integrations and real commerce like Assist powers, you have error checking, integrations to APIs, routing and escalation to live human support, understanding NLP, no back buttons, no home button, etc etc. We have to unlearn everything we learned the past 20 years to create an amazing experience in this new browser.” — Shane Mac, CEO of Assist
Chatbot Eliza can be regarded as the ancestor and grandmother of the large chatbot family we have listed on our website. As you can see in our directory tab, there are hundreds of online chatbots available in the public domain, although we believe hundreds of thousands have been created by enthusiastic artificial intelligence amateurs on platforms such as Pandorabots, MyCyberTwin or Personality Forge AI. Most of these chatbots give similar responses, the default response, and it appears to take a long time and patience to train a chatbot in another field of expertise and not all amateur developers are willing to spend these vast amounts of time. Most of the chatbots created this way are no longer accessible. Only a small portion of fanatic botmasters manage to fight their way out of the crowd and get some visibility in the public domain.
They have an intuitive visual interface for those without a coding background, but developers will like the editable front-end and customization options. While you can build a bot for free, a lot of the more complex (and interesting) tools are only available with Chatfuel Pro accounts. Either way, it might be helpful to know that Chatfuel integrates with Hootsuite Inbox using the Facebook Messenger handover protocol.