It's all happening at once: chat bots, chat bots, and more chat bots. Now that Facebook is going to add bots to Messenger, there's no turning back. We'll buy flowers with bots, we'll order car service with bots, we'll plan vacations with bots. We'll engage with more brands, more effectively, all with bots.
Just so there's no misunderstanding, this early wave of "bots" will have very little to do with complex artificial intelligence. They're really just a form of user interface. They're an app that "talks" to you, as opposed to other apps where you push buttons and select things from lists. Microsoft and Facebook are working on more advanced AI that will give bots a little more personality, and a little more comprehension. But they'll be pretty dumb for a while.
Bots have been ever-present since old-fashioned IRC chat rooms, automating tasks and saying "hi" to people. Bots are also huge in the office world of Slack, which is really just a prettier version of IRC. But now that bots are in Facebook Messenger, an app that can claim competitiveness with actual text messaging, things are going to get wacky.
Take this heartfelt Medium post by Steve Greenwood, for example. Steve draws charts, he quotes Marc Andreessen, and there's even a cool infographic in which "Brand" is the tomatoes, in between "Location" (lettuce), and "Personalization" (cheese). Yeah, he's talking about a bot that lets you buy burgers.
It's easy to imagine conversations happening in Fortune 500 boardrooms across the planet right now:
"We need a bot."
"Yes, yes we do need a bot."
"But ours should have personality."
"Yes, it should. As long as it stays on message and reflects our corporate values."
Something like that.
Brands don't really want to talk to you — that's why they invented phone trees, after all. But they want you to feel like you can talk to them, which is why bots are the answer. Soon, a great plague of bots will descend upon us all. And they'll be great, probably. I don't want to install a Domino's app. But would I talk to a Domino's bot in order to acquire pizza? Sure, why not.
Bots will save us all. We will finally be happy. Eat your Whopper. Be grateful. Thank the bots.