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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.


  • In group chats, a bot can provide information in-place to all participants (vs someone switching to a different app to do something and pasting the result)
  • Chatbots don't require you to design a specific GUI.
  • 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

IndieWeb uses

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

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