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Facebook hands out secret Chat SDK for virtual Messenger bots

Wed 6 Jan 2016

Facebook Messenger Uber

Facebook has started giving third-party developers unannounced access to a new development tools kit which allows them to build their own Messenger bots.

The Chat Software Development Kit (SDK) enables developers to create interactive experiences and virtual chat bots which can automatically respond to users, delivering information, location services, returning images and even managing payments. This format has already been seen in the integration of the Messenger Uber feature, which allows customers to request a ride from within the app.

Facebook has not yet publicised any details of the documentation for the SDK, instead sharing it secretly with select developers via PDF. Bryan Hurren, Facebook Messenger’s head of strategic partnerships, is reportedly behind the initiative.

Despite encouraging rivalry to M, the social network’s own virtual assistant, Facebook is planning to roll out its Messenger app into a platform for third-party partnerships and collaboration. Inspired by the success of Asian e-giants, such as China’s WeChat and Japan’s Line, the model could be extended to send messages to official brand accounts for e-commerce, booking accommodation and flights, processing payments, and receiving delivery updates, among other capabilities.

The diffusion of the new SDK is hoped to support other brands to create bots to facilitate these user requests, without the need to spend money building and maintaining their own apps. With the vast amount of apps flooding app stores, getting users to discover a product and gaining popularity is a tough feat for developers. Having the option to integrate with the Facebook messaging app, which users already use daily, would therefore be a convenient and hassle-free option for businesses.

According to Facebook product manager, Seth Rosenberg, the company was still getting users “used to the idea that you can message more than just people on Messenger,” but hopes that in the near future all online requests and transactions can be carried out through its Chat apps.


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