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Facebook launches ‘Chatbots’

By Fran Frith

Facebook F8 Conference

Facebook F8 Conference

In an annual developer conference last week, Facebook unveiled a new feature for the site called ‘Chatbots’.

A chatbot is a piece of software that’s designed to simulate human conversation to provide you with information, or complete a transaction. Many use artificial intelligence to respond to your commands or requests and are commonly used for brands to easily connect with customers.

So why would you want to use a Facebook chatbot instead of just calling customer service? Facebook thinks having the convenience of contacting numerous companies’ right from its Messenger app will be a winner with its audience – from finding shoes to ordering lunch, or booking flights.

However, Facebook and its partners (including news organisations such as CNN and the Wall Street Journal) need to fix their glitches, and fast.

Image Credit: Olivia Solon Twitter

Image Credit: Olivia Solon Twitter

Image Credit: Samuel Gibbs for The Guardian

Image Credit: Samuel Gibbs for The Guardian

Users experienced issues when trying to unsubscribe to the services, with phrases going unrecognised to the bots. Even when users did manage to unsubscribe to the Wall Street Journal by typing ‘stop’, the bot continued to send alerts and messages, causing people to actively block the bot to avoid spam.

Chatbots hold the potential to be something genuinely useful, but the problems need to be fixed quickly before users are completely put off by the service.