CHAT BOTS — an untold story of computing industry and growing future to next big thing
What are chatbots? Why are they so much important? What are hidden facts that leading towards development of chatbots? It is really next big thing or it’s just a clown that is over-rated. We don’t have the answer but something is happening and chatbot become a buzzword for all tech industry.
“~90% of our time on mobile is spent on email and messaging platforms.” — Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst
So, how it all started ? Let’s try and figure out that.
Let’s start from the beginning. In the 1980s, it all started with the personal computer — the platform was the desktop computer. Developers that wanted to add additional functionality created desktop client software. The gatekeepers of the platform were Microsoft and Apple.Major software applications included Lotus, Word, Excel and many others. A major developer ecosystem emerged around these platforms enabling users to personalize their computing experiences. Over time, however, this framework outlived its purpose. Software clients ended up with lots of features (bloatware), many of which were used by just a few users.
In the mid-90s, as network speeds improve, we shifted to another paradigm: the web. The browser was the new platform and the website was the new “client”. Developers built web sites to enable specific use cases. The cost of developing and upgrading websites is much lower than client software. Netscape owned the platform for a while until Microsoft saw it as an existential threat. Websites such as Yahoo, Amazon, Google etc. grew to success at this time.
In the mid-00s, with the rise of the smartphones, the dominant paradigm shifted yet again. The mobile OS became the new platform and developers built individual apps for specific use cases. The small screen added mobility and enabled computers to reach many more billions of users than possible with the large screen. While we gained mobility, we took a step back with client-side software development approach.(Earlier day mobile speed was bottle-neck, so client-side approach give better UX then server-side.) The problems from an earlier era of client-side software development came right back with it. The cost of development and upgrade is high, and app bloatware is becoming a problem again. To add to that is the problem that it is hard to use numerous apps on the small screen — while there are millions of apps out there, most of us use no more than a dozen on a given day. We are apped out!
In the mid-10s, messaging is emerging as the new platform. Developers are building messaging bots to support specific use cases. Messaging bots have the same advantages of server-side development as websites. The cost of development and upgrade is lower than apps. The end-user experience is also better suited to the small screen, since users don’t have to switch across different apps. They can stay within the messaging app that they already love, accomplishing all tasks through messaging. And I believe, like the earlier shifts, this, too, will create opportunities for new players and threats for current leaders.
Enough about history, now talk about current trend and chatbotic madness:
CHATBOT is basically a service, provided by rules or artificial intelligence, that you interact via the chat interface.
For example, If you wanted to buy a book then you probably go to amazon.com, look around until you find what you wanted, and then you would purchase it. If AMAZON makes a bot, which I’m sure they will, you would simply be able to message AMAZON. It would ask you what you’re looking for and you would simply… tell it. Instead of browsing a website, you will have a conversation with the AMAZON bot, mirroring the type of experience you would get when you go into the retail store.
Why Chatbots Are Such A Big Opportunity
You are probably wondering “Why does anyone care about chatbots? They look like simple text-based services… what’s the big deal?”
Great question. I’ll tell you why people care about chatbots.
It’s because for the first time ever people are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks.
So, logically, if you want to build a business online, you want to build where the people are. That place is now inside messenger apps.
Here are some popular platforms:
- Facebook Messenger
Great services that helps to build bots:
- wit.ai (bought by Facebook)
- howdy’s botkit (raised $1.5+ mil in funding)
- api.ai (raised $8.6+ mil in funding)
- Chatfuel (Ycombinator company)
- IBM’s Watson
- Dexter (owned by Betaworks)
This is actually a good thing for the average business since apps are hard to build and even harder to deliver to the right customer base. Bots, on the other hand, are relatively easy to build, and consumers can have a wide range of applications in one place. Instead of wasting resources on creating individual apps, businesses can move towards a simpler interface that uses scripted AI to interact with users.
Thanks for reading. Feedbacks and comments are always appreciated.