Facebook has given some developers access to an unannounced Chat SDK that allows them to build interactive experiences and “bots” in Messenger for shopping, booking travel, and more, sources with direct knowledge of the SDK confirm.
The Chat SDK allows developers to create bots that users can send text messages to directly and that automatically respond with information, images, location services, product prices, Buy buttons, and more. The Chat SDK can also tap into Messenger built-in payments system to let users make purchases via bots.
The Messenger Chat SDK could get more developers the ability to build bots like Uber’s.
The concept of lightweight chat-based interfaces for commerce, news, and more was pioneered and popularized in Asia by apps like China’s WeChat and Japan’s Line. Rather than forcing people to download entire apps for each business or use case, they can simply send messages “official accounts” or chat bots inside the instant messaging app they already use all day. These allow you to make purchases with a WeChat-connected payment option, order a taxi, buy movie tickets, pay bills, and more.
These bots and official accounts make accessing added utility not only convenient for the user. Chat app platforms relieve businesses from having to build, popularize, and maintain whole mobile apps for multiple phone operating systems. With so many apps flooding the app stores, getting people to discover them and go through the hassle of installing an app can be tough for businesses. It’s much more casual and less daunting for businesses to get users to simply message them.
The more useful features developers and businesses build into Messenger, the stickier it gets. It’s asimilar strategy to Slack, which formally launched its workplace chat app platform last month.