Facebook Messenger claims to have recently hit the much coveted ‘billion’ with 1.2 billion users on the platform. Last year, at Facebook’s Developer Conference, F8, the support for bots on Messenger platform was unveiled. And since then, developers from around the world have been working to leverage the next-gen technology. There are more than 100,000 bots available on Messenger today. David Marcus, Messenger’s CEO, states that the number of messages sent between businesses and customers has reached to 2 billion a month.
In 1950, Alan Turing's famous article "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" was published, which proposed what is now called the Turing test as a criterion of intelligence. This criterion depends on the ability of a computer program to impersonate a human in a real-time written conversation with a human judge, sufficiently well that the judge is unable to distinguish reliably—on the basis of the conversational content alone—between the program and a real human. The notoriety of Turing's proposed test stimulated great interest in Joseph Weizenbaum's program ELIZA, published in 1966, which seemed to be able to fool users into believing that they were conversing with a real human. However Weizenbaum himself did not claim that ELIZA was genuinely intelligent, and the introduction to his paper presented it more as a debunking exercise:
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”.
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.
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Messenger bots might also be able to revolutionize customer support. Facebook has become a popular platform for brands to interact with their customers. Many times customers will take a complaint to a brand’s Facebook page and have it resolved over chat. A Messenger bot makes it easier for you to get help. The quality of the support will vary but for smaller business that rely on Facebook for sales a bot is going to help them stay ‘online’ 24/7.