Facebook Social Media

How to find bots on Facebook


Facebook is betting big on bots, and it says that tens of thousands of dev
elopers are already working on them. Within a few months you could quite possibly spend hours chatting on Facebook Messenger without ever talking to another human.

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Given the hype, you’d think that Facebook would
make it really easy to find bots. Nope. There’s no way to browse Facebook’s bots, and the only way to find them in the app is to search for companies you think might ave deployed bots in the hope that they’ll turn up with the heading “bots and businesses”. Even then, that appears to be limited by geography; trying to search for known bots such as the Uber bot works fine in the US but doesn’t work in the UK. The good news is that there’s another way to browse the ever-growing world of bots – and it’s called botlist.

What are Facebook bots anyway?

Bots aren’t a new thing: they’ve been doing automated things
n websites such as banning people for bad language for years now, and Twitter’s full of the damn things: mention a company or a particular band and you’ll often find that you’ve suddenly got a whole bunch of new followers, all of them automated. But the new wave of Facebook bots is different and more useful. According to Facebook, “bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.”

add-chatbotFacebook bots are being built for its Messenger platform,
but they’re not just bots you’ll talk to – although most of them so far are in customer service, information finding and even fast food booking; Burger King wants to trial burger ordering via the Messenger app. They’ll be able to send you stuff too, so for example a newsbot might send you a message with stories it thinks you’ll be interested or a fast food outlet could send you a promo code.

Facebook also wants the bots to live outside the Facebook app. For example, a Burger King bot could live inside a Burger King app with Facebook handling the data in exchange for a cut of the sale. Facebook would quite like its bots to be the power behind everything we do on mobile from yelling at suppliers to buying stuff and booking trips.

Why would you want to use Facebook bots?

Because they’re easier than trying to talk to a human. Have you tried calling your broadband provider’s helpline, your mobile network’s customer service line or your electricity supplier recently? If you have, you’ll no doubt have experienced huge delays between picking up the phone and actually speaking to someone, if you got through at all. It’d be much easier to launch Messenger and call on the broadband, mobile or electricity supplier’s bots to get an answer to your question or call an engineer.

Is there a downside to Facebook bots?

There could be, if they decide to rise up and crush humanity. More likely, a badly written bot will do something stupid (or people will: Microsoft’s chatbot was in the headlines recently when users managed to make it racist within hours of its debut) and everybody will be outraged until something else catches their attention. But there is one real potential downside, and that’s your privacy. Facebook already knows an astonishing amount about you. Do you want it to have access to everything you do outside Facebook too?

There’s another, bigger, potential downside, and that’s jobs. If big firms can automate most customer service and sales interactions, bots will be replacing real people’s jobs. Take Uber, for example: it wants to automate everything up to and including the driving. Bots could be the accelerant for the next technology-driven revolution, where anything that can be automated is automated. Optimists say that’ll mean more time for us to lounge around and hang out with people we care about. Pessimists want to know how we’ll earn money to pay for it. Maybe we’ll all become bot developers.

Okay, where do I find the bots on Facebook?

Right now, the best way to do it is to quit Facebook and go to Botlist instead. Botlist aims to be a directory of all chatbots, not just Facebook ones, but you can refine its results by category so you only see the Facebook ones. As you’ll see, it’s a fairly mixed bag: bots include Jessie’s Story, which is a conversation-based game; TechCrunch, which sends you tech news; Bot Hunter Bot, which tells you about new and interesting bots; and HP Print Bot which, you’ll be amazed to discover, is a bot that prints. Uber’s there for booking rides, and you’ll find big media firms such as the Wall Street Journal too.

How do I talk to the bots on Facebook?

If you’re using Botlist, click or tap on the bot you’re interested in and you’ll see a link to talk to it on Messenger. And that’s it.

How do I tell Facebook bots to get lost?

One of the less exciting possibilities of bots is sponsored messages, where a company whose bot you’ve chatted with in the past sends you an advert. In theory that advert would be personalized, useful and relevant, but if the history of the internet is any guide it’s more likely to mean messages about things you don’t care about or special offers on things you’ve already bought from somewhere else. The good news is that you’ll be able to block such things: in a message thread, look for the Block option in the top right hand corner. This enables you to block all messages from the organization, or just block sponsored messages and let other messages through.

Are Facebook bots going to be a big deal, or is the hype a load of hot air?

Nobody knows, but with nearly 1 billion people on Facebook the potential for bots is massive – assuming bots prove to be interesting rather than annoying. We’ll soon find out.

About the author

Gary Marshall

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