Facebook to unveil chat bots and live chat plugins for businesses at F8 conference

Facebook is hard at work with developers on chatbots and live chat plugins for business clients in the run-up to its F8 conference next week.

According to a new report, chatbots (which are essentially chat robots powered using a combination of AI and human assistance) will provide automated responses and “structured messages” from businesses on Facebook Messenger. Meanwhile, Live Chat developers are helping Facebook build Messenger-linked contact buttons for websites.

The tools will allow brands to bypass the creation of complicated communications systems and instead rely on Facebook’s pre-existing Messenger network, which now has 900 million users. Chatbots are already being utilized by messaging apps, such as Kik, and were described as “the future of apps” by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.

Related: Facebook providing ‘financial incentive’ for companies to use its live video service

Although Facebook hasn’t officially announced the features as of yet, numerous sources — and a leaked deck the platform shared with devs — confirm the API tools are on their way, reports TechCrunch.

The “Structured Messages” that chatbots will provide as part of their responses to users include information such as titles, images, URLs, and calls to action such as encouragement to visit a website, review an e-commerce order, or make a reservation at a restaurant.

The Live Chat plugin, on the other hand, will allow businesses to add a Messenger link to their websites, alongside other contact info. The report states that when a user taps on the “Message Us” button on a website, they will then be redirected to the Messenger app on their phone in order to interact with the business. The process will be no different than a general conversation on the platform, and will include regular features such as read-receipts and typing indicators.

Earlier today, Facebook announced new ways to start chats and add contacts on Messenger. Over the coming weeks, the platform will roll out URL chat links and Messenger Codes (that can be scanned like QR codes using a phone camera) for every account. Facebook is already luring brands to use Messenger to sell their products, having previously added a payments system to the app. Thus far, the likes of ride-hailing service Uber and its counterpart Lyft have partnered with the app. Additionally, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is using Messenger to send flight updates to passengers.

The F8 Facebook Developer Conference conference takes place on April 12–13 at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco.

Originally published at www.digitaltrends.com on April 8, 2016.