Soon, Facebook Messenger might actually be useful for something other than ducking chat requests from former classmates: The world's most widely used social media platform is helping businesses build chat bots to respond to customers and handle simple tasks — including, perhaps, ordering food.
As Fortune reports, today marks the first day of Facebook's annual F8 developers conference in San Francisco, and the company is expected to spill the beans on said bots. The evidence can already be found within the Messenger mobile app itself, though: Now when using Messenger's search function to look for a business, the category is labelled as "Bots and Businesses" (before, it was just "Businesses").
As Fortune points out, "Businesses have of course been on Facebook for years with their own profile pages and news feed advertisements, but they have rarely had access to Messenger, a till-now sacred environment that people mostly use for chatting to friends and family." Facebook has 900 million active users, and giving businesses the ability to more efficiently interact with their fans via automated bots is clearly a gigantic money-making opportunity for both the social media platform and its business customers.
Kik Messenger, another mobile messaging app that boasts 200 million users, has already dove head first into the world of chat bots; "it’s currently talking to fast-food chains to set up food-ordering bots" that would enable users to not only order meals, but also pay for their food. Presumably, this kind of functionality will also find its way to Facebook Messenger; Messenger users can already use the app to hail Uber rides and get boarding passes from Dutch airline KLM.
Taco Bell also recently hopped on the bot bandwagon, unveiling a chat bot integrated into Slack, a workplace communications tool, that enables users to order food from their nearest Taco Bell location. Stay tuned for more details from the F8 keynote, which begins today at 1 p.m. EST.