“Bot” is the wrong name.. and why people who think they are silly are wrong.

Right now some folks see examples like weather cats and ordering flowers in clunky UIs with AI that is ok, not great, and they think bots are dumb. I believe this is the beginning of micro apps on the backs of massive platforms which will lead to more focus and reach for startups and more delighted users.

What really do you get in a mobile application?

Shyp is a delightful experience. Do you need to return a purchase or ship anything to anywhere? Press a button on your phone, a courier immediately picks up your item and, for a low price, it’s done. But what is the actual mobile product experience? You take a photo of an item (camera), tell them where you are (location), supply your credit card, and reach out to customer care if there’s a problem.

All of that functionality is already natively built into Messenger.

Write once, (finally) run everywhere?

As we moved off the multiple browsers on the web to multiple native mobile applications on your phone, teams had to write different versions of their apps for different mobile phones, test for different sizes of phones, and painfully (provisioning profiles ftw!) submit to multiple app stores. Often teams would ignore certain platforms at first (Android?), and lose out on reaching millions of users.

If Shyp started today, they could simply build a micro app on Facebook and save countless hours of development. In the same way that the explosion of SaaS software (from AWS to MixPanel to SendGrid, etc) allowed startups to accomplish more in less time, not having to build multiple rich mobile apps saves time. Teams can focus on their core value and growth.

In a micro app world, you build one experience on the Facebook platform and reach 1B people.

Startups can focus more on growth

Whether it’s tuning social experiences or optimizing paid user acquisition, startups need to focus on delivering delightful experiences to millions of people. Where do many teams acquire users? Facebook. What is the current user experience? Click on a native ad which drives you through 3 link trackers to a mobile web page or directly to an unoptimized app store page. Click install, probably enter your password, wait for the app to download, open it, re-login or create an account, maybe only then provide some delight. That’s so horribly broken.

In a micro app world, after one click into a Messenger app, your rich profile data is already there (personal info, friends, credit card, addresses, clothing sizes, more), and you can instantly delight the user. This conversion improvement simply means more users.

Richer UI/UX... coming soon.

Who remembers FBML? This is ugly, but you get the point.

If you believe there will be micro apps, then the UI/UX will be greatly improved. As I mentioned in a previous post, Facebook has done this once before with FBML in the Facebook chrome (circa 2007) where they gave developers rich widgets to improve user experience. That will happen here too. Whether its FBML widgets or react components, micro apps will be more than clunky multiple-choice sliders with duplicative text everywhere.

Also, many people are focused on bots and AI, but that’s just one ingredient in delighting users. Products like Fin/Operator/M are at least partially powered by real humans. Other important ingredients are NLP to process text inputs, CV and deep learning improvements in audio-to-text to process inputs like audio/photos/video, and more. Its so much more than text and AI.

In a micro app world, you leverage richer UIs and multiple SaaS products to process input and focus more time on creating just enough of an experience to delight users.

Continued Facebook Advertising growth

Why is Facebook doing this? If startups can reach and delight more users, you’ll use their ad products even more. Higher conversion rates means happier advertising customers and more users for startups.


Footnotes:

  • This post was fueled by a conversation on twitter this morning with Shyp’s CEO, Kevin Gibbon. I used Shyp as an example with his permission. I’m an early angel investor in the company.
  • All of the references above could apply to other platforms, I’ve used FB because their developer conference was this week and it’s fresh on my mind.
  • Apple and Android don’t allow apps to install other apps inside of them. They want you to use their app stores. Unclear how this will play out.
  • Medium should support actual footnotes.

You can find me on Twitter (@abatalion), email (aaron@lsvp.com) or Facebook Messenger.

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