Chatbots : Start here!

A comprehensive list of chatbot platforms, tools and startups.

(I’ve sorted the platforms, apis etc. into groups depending on your needs. tldr links at the end.)

Chat bots and conversational UI are all the rage. From prominent VCs, to influential product people, many are hailing it as a fundamental shift in the way we interact with digital services and content. John Borthwick, startup luminary from Betaworks waxed “There are magical moments in computing when all of a sudden something that was expensive and complicated becomes easy and cheap.” sam lessin, former VP of product at Facebook, talked of “…a fundamental shift that is going to change the types of applications that get developed …in the valley.” Chris Messina, a product lead at UBER called 2016 “the year of conversational commerce” citing very compelling data.

Consider that the top four texting apps combined now have over 3 billion users, who sent over 90 trillion messages last year. That’s more users that the big social networks! The average person opens texting apps more than 17 times a day and at the same time Comscore has reported that more than 65% of smartphone owners don’t download any new apps beyond what they already have. These trends and jockeying for position in the conversational landscape are probably what fueled Facebook’s overtures to Snapchat and eventual acquisition of Whatsapp for $22 billion (18X what they paid for Instagram only 2.5 yrs earlier).

A conversational interface is a way to interact with a service via a conversation, rather than using buttons, or a mouse, or swiping or scrolling. Just talk or text, like you’re talking to a person.

e.g. Get a restaurant suggestion from a personal concierge bot called Cloe.

Simple things like ordering a pizza, checking the weather and getting your news are early, possibly mundane examples, but remember, this is really just the start. While some people think this is just the latest fad, it has really been developing for awhile. The holy grail of a conversational interface is to have a butler, or personal assistant service, similar to the example above, but much more expansive. This assistant-type conversational UI is so sought after, it’s being chased simultaneously across voice and chat by Apple (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana and, Google (Google Now), Amazon (Alexa on Echo) and Facebook (“M” butler within Facebook Messenger).

Meanwhile, Asian chat services like WeChat and Line already have hundreds of millions of users making payments, hailing taxis, booking flights, setting doctor’s appointments, managing credit card statements, paying utility bills and much more, directly from within the chat experience. This may be hard to imagine for Western chat users who are still at the stage of sending gifs and emoji, where Slash Keyboard and Snapchat stories were meteoric leaps forward. So where are our chat apps? (see some links below)

“There are magical moments in computing when all of a sudden something that was expensive and complicated becomes easy and cheap.” — John Borthwick

All the hubbub is really the confluence of two technology milestones:

  1. Artificial intelligence and natural language processing at scale have recently become more broadly viable and available to developers.
  2. Slack, Line, Kik, Telegram, WeChat and now Facebook have opened up apis to build apps that work within their messaging products. This offers developers the chance to bypass the overwhelmed app stores and directly reach a massive audience of chat users with new services.

Will the conversational interface become so pervasive that we stop using apps? No, because visual games, mapping and image based apps probably work better with pinching, swiping and tapping etc. But, services and buying things may radically switch to conversations. Peter Rojas puts it eloquently, saying: “a chatbot doesn’t necessarily have to be easier to use than the corresponding app. It just needs to be more convenient to use, given the context in which you want to accomplish a specific task.” So, if a service might fit naturally within a conversation, that bodes well for converting it to a chat based interaction. Efforts are already under way to create conversational UI to book flights & hotel rooms, to shop, to order food and for all types of search related services.

In research for some new Riffle features (hint) I’ve read many of the ‘chatbot’ posts and spent time looking at the technology ecosystem that’s growing around conversational UI. Below, I’ve organized links to platforms, toolkits, games and other examples in the budding landscape. I’ve also linked to a set of screenshots showing some of the chat UI/UX that I’ve surveyed. Please leave comments if I missed your offering.

Click here for screenshots of many of the many chat UIs I’ve tested or looked at.

Customer Service Platforms — Conversational Customer Service
Serving the mobile customer with powerful, intuitive and personal support.

Platforms — The most powerful way to build, train, 
and deploy intelligent conversational apps — Easiest and fastes way to build & deploy your bots — Anyone can sign up, build, deploy, test and use bots on messaging apps — Pandorabots is a web service for building and deploying chatbots. — (Microsoft) Build and connect intelligent bots to interact with your users naturally wherever they are — from your website or app to text/SMS, Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Office 365 mail, Teams and other popular services.

Prototyping Design your chatbot — The fastest way to create a bot experience preview

Enterprise platforms — Pypestream is a secure mobile communications platform that lists all businesses as Pypes in a searchable catalogue. — Unified multi-channel messaging for businesses, bots and software makers — Enterprise-level bot building platform

ai Natural language processing — Natural Language for Developers -Build intelligent speech interfaces for web, mobile, and devices. — The intuitive bot builder without coding, but with AI to understand user requests — Natural language search for commerce H2O is the world’s leading open source machine learning platform. — Conversational interfaces for your applications. Powered by the same deep learning technologies as Alexa

No programming bot — Build, train and deploy AI robots to do almost anything imaginable — Build and power a conversational engine for your brand — for Facebook Messenger Platform Build your intelligent, conversational bot in minutes — simple intuitive bots that create mobile messaging forms

‘Big install’ chat app apis. Your app works within their chat UI — Telegram — Line app — Facebook Messenger — Wechat

For adding chat to your mobile app — Everything that a chat app needs — a flexible toolkit froom UI to infrastructure that powers messaging — the calling and messaging developer toolkit for every platform. — Everything You Need to Build Scalable Realtime Apps. — Use the Sinch APIs to enhance your app with Voice, SMS, Verification, Video, and Instant Messaging. Messaging and chat api for mobile Apps and Websites

SMS platforms — Use the Sinch APIs to enhance your app with Voice, SMS, Verification, Video, and Instant Messaging. — Exchange text and pictures around the world from any web or mobile app with one API.

Personal Assistants -is a personal assistant who schedules meetings for you — Howdy is a friendly, trainable bot that super powers teams by automating common tasks. — Talk to bots and your friends in the same place: make weekend plans, play games, find restaurants and more. — Fin fixes your phone and lets you live in the future.

Messenger bots to try out

Facebook Messenger bot game Humani: Jessie’s Story

News bots

Forbes on Telegram —

Huffington Post on Viber —

Quartz iphone app —

Bot Story builders

Other apps with conversational UI


When I’m not chatting with bots, I’m helping people find and read amazing books using Riffle. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re reading ebooks or pbooks. Riffle — Get Inspired. Read more.

Here’s an update:

25 Chatbot startups you should know (from Venturebeat)