Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW

Who uses chatbots, anyway?

Sarah Menendez Apr 11, 2016

Facebook is expected Tuesday to join the sometimes-productive, sometimes-whacky, world of chatbots. If the social media company launches its rumored messaging chatbot, it will be jumping on a trend that is decades in the making.

Chatbots are a type of software designed to give users programmed responses — kind of like how automated telephone prompts operate, but online and way more intricate. Remember SmarterChild from AIM? And Clippy from Microsoft Word? Both can be considered bots of sorts.

While Facebook is just now entering the fray, messaging apps like Kik and Slack already host bots on their platforms and continue to develop more. The kind of bots used in these messaging apps varies, they can do all sorts of things, from ordering food to booking flights. Here’s how four messaging apps are using chatbots now:

Kik

The popular messaging app predominately used by teens has been using bots for a while. Last year, the company reported that 350 million messages were exchanged between bots and users. Some of Kik’s bots are “brand bots” used by companies like Sephora to connect with potential young customers. Others deliver content in message form, including the Vine bot and Funny or Die bot. Last week, Kik launched a bot store where users can browse and make their own bots.

WeChat

WeChat is a messaging service used in China that boasts 650 million monthly users. WeChat has bots that can book plane tickets, find you a job, and help you shop. Like chatbots used in America, WeChat also hosts bots that can order food or connect users with customer service agents.

Slack

Slack is also a popular messaging app — less so among teens, more so in the workplace — that hosts tons of bots. Some bots on Slack are aimed at productivity. There are bots for scheduling meetings, making to do lists, bots for analytics and stats.Then, there’s Slack bots for slacking off, like the yebot that sends you Kanye’s latest tweets and the tacobot from Taco Bell that allows you to order from Slack.

Telegram

Telegram is a global messaging app similar to WhatsApp and Kik. Telegram hosts bots for productivity that will send you reminders as well as a trivia bot and image reaction keyboard. It also hosts a weird, Tinder-esq rating and dating bot called “Hot or Bot.”

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.