According to a new report from TechCrunch, Facebook is giving select third party developers access to an SDK to let them build their own chat bots for Messenger.
The bots would act as a virtual chat partner that can automatically respond to users’ queries, returning information, images, and possibly even processing payments. It might sound like Facebook is unwisely encouraging competition to M, its own text-based virtual assistant, but the company has ongoing plans to turn its chat app into a platform for other brands and businesses.
The model of a virtual assistant has already proved successful in Asia, where chat apps can handle everything from booking flights to managing bank accounts.
If Facebook can help other companies build bots to handle these sorts of queries, then Messenger can become a home for all sorts of interactions. Brands won’t have to spend money maintaining their own standalone apps. A Facebook product manager told TechCrunch:
“We are still getting users used to the idea that you can message more than just people on Messenger.”
The move will also give Facebook users another reason to stay logged in. However, the features will unlikely be released in the future.