A chatbot (also known as a talkbot, chatterbot, Bot, IM bot, interactive agent, or Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test. Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatterbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler systems scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database according to Wikipedia.com. In this article, I will take you through chatbots for WhatsApp and how they come into handy.
In Brief, Has Anyone Created A WhatsApp Chatbot? Yes!!
There have been many developers who have gone down this road before and have built bots on WhatsApp. However, so far, all these initiatives have been created illegally.
Why, When, Where and How is all included in this article so keep reading.
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How It All Began?
In February 2016, according to Whatbot.com, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook and reported that it has one billion users and is worth US$19.3 billion. Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp combined see more than 60 billion messages sent each day on the two platforms. This is obviously a huge amount when you consider comparing it to text messages. Over 100 million voice calls are made a day by WhatsApp users according to WhatsApp.com. So the service is certainly not only used for messaging and text communication.
With all those statistics in mind, it’s a pretty natural question to ask yourself. ‘Why hasn’t WhatsApp launched a bot store or any Bots for the platform or does Facebook want to prop up the Bots on Messenger or has Whatsapp not yet quite got around it?
There was the talk of the ability to build your own bots after the announcement of WhatsApp take over by Facebook and this got the dev-ops community excited by the opportunity opening up. Facebook then added its name to a list of other platforms such as Telegram, Skype, and Kik, after opening up Facebook messenger to the use of chatbots. However, the reason as to why till now Whatsapp is missing from this list is simply because there is no API to interact with.
APIs and Chatbots For WhatsApp
For your own information, in computer programming, an Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. A good API makes it easier to develop a computer program by providing all the building blocks, which are then put together by the programmer. An API may be for a web-based system, operating system, database system, and computer hardware or software library. An API specification can take many forms, but often includes specifications for routines, data structures, object classes, variables or remote calls. POSIX, Microsoft Windows API, the C++ Standard Template Library and Java APIs are examples of different forms of APIs. Documentation for the API is usually provided to facilitate usage according to Wikipedia.com.
As per Whatbot.com, Kik, Telegram, Slack, Skype and Facebook itself are well aware of the importance of this technology and are putting in enormous strides to create and refine good quality, usable and helpful bots across their platforms.
However, for the case of WhatsApp, they are seemingly against the production of Bots on its platform at the moment. I say this because it has been reported many times that as soon as WhatsApp discovers what you are doing, they will immediately suspend your account and the mobile number attached will be banned from the service. Most times, noncompliant developers succeed at creating the chatbot by using unofficial API to build the bot but it sooner or later gets taken down as was the case for Brazilian developer, Alfred R Baudisch – CEO & founder at Fredchatbots.
To prove this, even more, it should be noted that the creation of chatbots on WhatsApp is a violation of their terms and conditions. Given that Facebook is rolling out and trialing many types of Bots on the Messenger platform, one would conclude that their intention is to keep WhatsApp as a pure messaging platform for the moment, If they can get the formula right there, perhaps they’ll expand it to WhatsApp. WhatsApp is very serious about keeping the platform Bot free for the moment but probably foreseeable in future given that they actually banned WhatsBot from the service.
This was reported on their blog site whatsbot.com that after they had nailed it at a hackathon called Disrupt London in 2015, where the team created what they called “the first personal assistant for the WhatsApp messaging platform,” they quickly launched their Bot/personal assistant service to users. It worked via location data from Foursquare and mapping data to help users find places to go or to meet with friends and family. Clearly, the team were well aware of the importance and significance of Bot technology, and put their minds together to produce a useful and user-friendly Bot for the platform, which is exactly what all the major platforms are doing now, in correlation with developers of a similar skill set and style.
Chatbots For WhatsApp As A Game
It worked in a simple way – you would add its phone number to your WhatsApp contact list and then add it to group chats. The minds that created the game came from England, Spain and France, combining their abilities and experiences to make the best possible service that they could and people thoroughly enjoyed it. Some even state that its creation and implementation was a significant influence on the overall movement. While their Bot was eventually banned and removed from the service, it was one of many indicators of the great age of Bots set to come, and in that sense, it served a strong sense of purpose.
The world is moving fast in terms of how communication in the technological sense. So if people want platforms that have Bots, WhatsApp will surely need to follow suit or else risk losing money and users.
Hopefully, WhatsApp will follow suit and we shall see Bots on WhatsApp that help with banking, flight booking, food ordering and overall emulations of what a personal assistant would do for you just like Wechat which is steadily gaining ground. See article on WhatsApp vs. Wechat
It cannot be actually said that Facebook will allocate funding to chatbots given the current dynamics. But probably they could be aiming at having their own successful Bots re-purposed for the service.
WhatsApp has on several occasions been inviting business to its platform for some time now and bots are becoming inevitable assuming that Bots are a success or show great promise on Messenger or there is a demand from businesses which is already there. So what’s left to lose?
WhatsApp For Business And How Chatbots For WhatsApp Come In Use
Whatsapp on January 18th 2018 launched a separate app, WhatsApp Business for small businesses to more easily connect with customers. It is quite obvious to me that this has been an attempt by WhatsApp to address the need of chatbots to the growing population especially the business community. At the moment this may not be so much of help given that WhatsApp Business is new on the market and users may opt for a more popular platform with similar features such as Wechat.
There are other developers such as #971LaunchPad who has designed a product Yallagenie which can help you build Chatbots for WhatsApp. With this, you get to interact with your customers more effectively, because their attention is no longer divided. You can also integrate your existing CRM with your Whatsapp connections. However as I have mentioned before, it could be taken down once detected. But ooh well, it doesn’t hurt to try anyway.