Facebook Messenger launches group bots and bot discovery tab

Facebook today launched two powerful ways for people to find Messenger bots to use, addressing the discovery problem that’s plagued bot the platform’s 100,000 developers.

Facebook’s new Chat Extensions lets you use Messenger bots in group chats so you can watch a sports game’s play-by-play together from TheScore’s news ticker bot, collaborate on building a Spotify playlist, or get a consensus on booking a flight through Kayak. OpenTable, the NBA, Food Network, WSJ, and other developers are also launching group bots today.

TechCrunch reported last month that Facebook would launch these group bots today at F8.

The second big piece of bot discovery news is the launch of a Discovery tab on Messenger where people can see their recently used bots, browse bot categories, see trending experiences, or search for specific bots. Users will be able to check out a preview screen about what a bot does before starting a conversation with one. Developers need to submit a form with this preview information to be included in the curated tab.

Together, these could give bots on Messenger more traction through virality in groups and merit via Facebook’s choices of what’s best. That could attract more prestigious developers to the platform. Facebook launched Messenger bots last year, but users had a tough time finding good ones, many diappointed people because they relied on inadequate AI, or they were confusing to use. On stage today at Facebook’s F8 conference, Messenger head David Marcus said “I’m glad we called it a beta”.

Facebook has been trying to improve bots with the option to navigate via menus instead of text commands. And at F8 Messenger also launched QR codes for the physical world that open a specific command insinde a bot, food delivery M Suggestions, and more features to help businesses.

With today’s updates, bot developers will have good reason to fight through the churn rates and lack of user understanding. With 1.2 billion users on Messenger, there’s plenty of people who could try their bots.

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