A chatbot is a piece of software that interacts with a user via a chat/DM protocol rather than having its own app or protocol. They have existed for a long time in the form of IRC bots and so on, but in 2015/16 became a trend in the tech industry after designers and developers learned of the popularity of chatbots elsewhere, e.g. on Chinese services like WeChat.
Chatbots and interfaces designed around chatbot-style interaction are often called conversational UIs.
- Chatbots don't require you to design a specific UI.
- People have proposed chatbots as an alternative to downloading an app for a particular company. If you already have a chat application installed (like Facebook Messenger or Telegram etc.) then interacting with a chatbot doesn't require you to download a large application which can then run potentially malicious code on your phone.
- Interaction can be quite a bit faster and more fluid than interacting with an app.
- Historical log of interactions is stored and sometimes shared between devices.
- Undocumented interface. This means they have similar limitations to some command line applications.
- Stateful interaction makes it hard to compare options that have been presented. If one were shopping for a product, a chatbot interface doesn't allow you to open up multiple products in different tabs and compare them.
- Lack of URIs. Web sites have URLs for particular interactions. You can't bookmark a message from a chatbot and send it to a friend. There is no canonical home for a piece of content sent thorugh a chatbot stream.
Chat networks that enable bot integration
- Facebook Messenger
- Telegram - documentation
- Google Talk
- Slack (for business/group use)
- The #indiewebcamp irc channel uses a bot, Loqi, for a variety of tasks.
- The PostrChild is a micropub client as a chatbot that lets you post to your site from different instant messaging apps such as slack and Telegram.
Possible IndieWeb uses
- Notifying post authors of webmentions, comments and other interactions with their posts
- Checking in: Telegram allows you to send a location. On iOS, it brings up a list of nearby venues which can be transmitted to a server.
- Personal reminders, notification of scheduled posts
- 2016-02-22 Stephanie Rieger, Why conversational commerce may be our best chance to re-imagine the web
- 2016-04-20 Dan Grover, Bots won't replace apps. Better apps will replace apps.
- 2016-04-29 Alex Hern, Please, Facebook, don't make me speak to your awful chatbots, The Guardian