Yes. Messenger bots are approved by Facebook before being made available inside the Messenger app so you can rest assured that they aren’t trying to steal your identity (or anything else). What’s more is a bot is tied to a Facebook page and a Facebook app making it all the more inconvenient to use for fraudulent activity. That said, don’t exchange private and/or personal information with a bot. Finally, because Messenger doesn’t support credit cards and purchasing just yet, anything you buy will likely be done via a browser with a bot aiding you so far as to place an order. If you want, you can always block a bot.
“It’s hard to balance that urge to just dogpile the latest thing when you’re feeling like there’s a land grab or gold rush about to happen all around you and that you might get left behind. But in the end quality wins out. Everyone will be better off if there’s laser focus on building great bot products that are meaningfully differentiated.” — Ryan Block, Cofounder of Begin.com
Interestingly, the as-yet unnamed conversational agent is currently an open-source project, meaning that anyone can contribute to the development of the bot’s codebase. The project is still in its earlier stages, but has great potential to help scientists, researchers, and care teams better understand how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain. A Russian version of the bot is already available, and an English version is expected at some point this year.
This is where most applications of NLP struggle, and not just chatbots. Any system or application that relies upon a machine’s ability to parse human speech is likely to struggle with the complexities inherent in elements of speech such as metaphors and similes. Despite these considerable limitations, chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated, responsive, and more “natural.”
Fify claims to be an intelligent fashion discovery and transaction bot. “Fify will have memory and personality to behave just as humans. She will behave differently with different people. She will remember one’s taste and preferences. She will be context aware of what is happening in your world. Fify will first talk only about Fynd Fashion and eventually do all sorts of thing related to fashion — discuss trends, alert you about new arrivals, and even gossip about the latest fad of a movie star,” their blog claims.
The term "ChatterBot" was originally coined by Michael Mauldin (creator of the first Verbot, Julia) in 1994 to describe these conversational programs. Today, most chatbots are accessed via virtual assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, via messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or WeChat, or via individual organizations' apps and websites. Chatbots can be classified into usage categories such as conversational commerce (e-commerce via chat), analytics, communication, customer support, design, developer tools, education, entertainment, finance, food, games, health, HR, marketing, news, personal, productivity, shopping, social, sports, travel and utilities.
The most widely used anti-bot technique is the use of CAPTCHA, which is a form of Turing test used to distinguish between a human user and a less-sophisticated AI-powered bot, by the use of graphically-encoded human-readable text. Examples of providers include Recaptcha, and commercial companies such as Minteye, Solve Media, and NuCaptcha. Captchas, however, are not foolproof in preventing bots as they can often be circumvented by computer character recognition, security holes, and even by outsourcing captcha solving to cheap laborers.
Sometimes it is hard to discover if a conversational partner on the other end is a real person or a chatbot. In fact, it is getting harder as technology progresses. A well-known way to measure the chatbot intelligence in a more or less objective manner is the so-called Turing Test. This test determines how well a chatbot is capable of appearing like a real person by giving responses indistinguishable from a human’s response.
Enter Roof Ai, a chatbot that helps real-estate marketers to automate interacting with potential leads and lead assignment via social media. The bot identifies potential leads via Facebook, then responds almost instantaneously in a friendly, helpful, and conversational tone that closely resembles that of a real person. Based on user input, Roof Ai prompts potential leads to provide a little more information, before automatically assigning the lead to a sales agent.
The process of building, testing and deploying chatbots can be done on cloud-based chatbot development platforms offered by cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers such as Oracle Cloud Platform  and IBM Watson. These cloud platforms provide Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Backend as a Service for chatbot development.
There are two types of chatbots available: those that function based on rules and those that use artificial intelligence (A.I.). Chatbots that function based on rules are much more limited than those that work with A.I. because they only respond to specific commands. Hence, they require a great deal of programming in order to be an effective tool. Chatbots tools that are powered by artificial intelligence are more dynamic because they respond to language, and don’t require specific commands. They learn continuously from the conversations they have with people and can help fulfill an array of tasks without a monumental amount of programming.
Botsify is another Facebook chatbot platform that helps make it easy to integrate chatbots into the system. Its paid subscription helps you in five easy steps. 1) Log into the botsify.com site, 2) Connect your Facebook account, 3) Setup a webhook, 4) Write up commands for the chatbot you are creating, and 5) Let Botisfy handle the customer service for you. If the paid services are a little too much, they do offer a free service that lets you create as many bots as your lovely imagination can dream up.
“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
Online chatbots save time and efforts by automating customer support. Gartner forecasts that by 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human. However, the opportunites provided by chatbot systems go far beyond giving responses to customers’ inquiries. They are also used for other business tasks, like collecting information about users, helping to organize meetings and reducing overhead costs. There is no wonder that size of the chatbot market is growing exponentially.
Insidiously and persistently, Facebook is chipping away at other messaging platforms and moving their users to Facebook Messenger. If they keep it up, by the end of 2017 there will be as many people on Messenger (currently 900 million) as Facebook (1.674 billion). But, counterintuitive as that strategy seems (why bifurcate resources on two fronts) that is all part of Mark Zuckerberg’s avec nous le deluge.