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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
- Telegram - documentation
- Slack (for business/group use)
- Facebook Messenger
- The indieweb chat channels use bots, Loqi and Kaja, 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.
- Sven Knebel uses an IRC bot to receive notifications from his website
- Sebastiaan Andeweg was using a bot named 'bop' on the Raspberry Pi that ran his IRC bouncer (and a private IRC network for it), to get notifications of Webmentions, logins and Micropub actions.
- capjamesg uses a bot called Cali. Cali relays Micropub and Webmention notifications to a Discord chat. James can post to his site and subscribe to feeds in his feed reader using Cali.
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