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Google will reportedly challenge Facebook with an intelligent messaging app

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Google is said to be building a new messaging app, this time with an intelligent twist: it'll let you chat with your friends or message a Google bot for answers to your questions. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has been working on this new service for at least a year, though it isn't known when it might launch.

Other developers might hook into Google's service

It isn't stated how powerful Google wants this intelligent bot to be at launch. Likely, it would be able to do everything that a normal Google search can, offering up answers when it can and providing links when it can't. That means you might be able to message it for information on the weather or to look up details on a restaurant. The Journal reports that Google will likely allow other developers to build chatbots that run on the service, so you could receive an answer from an app that has the information you're looking for. Google declined to comment.

The intention is to prevent Google from losing out on search to other messaging services, like Facebook's, that have been building in intelligent bots of their own. Google doesn't currently have a successful messaging app — even Hangouts is kind of a mess — so the implication that Google is building yet another one is reasonable. It could always opt to build this service into an existing chat app as well.

The service sounds like it's meant to directly compete with Facebook M, a bot that Facebook is testing inside of Messenger. Like what Google is said to be doing, M automatically searches the web for answers to questions, but it takes that one step further: for more complicated queries, a human assistant will take over, allowing M to do things far beyond what a computer could. The Journal doesn't mention Google considering anything outside of the digital realm — that's its area of expertise, anyway — but it'll need to offer something at least as powerful if it wants to hook users. Then there's just the small question of whether Google can get people chatting with their friends, too.