Facebook Messenger bots work in groups now — just don’t expect them to chat

Yesterday at its annual F8 developer conference, Facebook launched Messenger Platform 2.0, and discovery was the main theme, with the addition of new features like chat extensions and bot recommendations by Facebook’s intelligent assistant M. With chat extensions, bots finally gained the ability to interact with people in a group setting.

Bots can now be shared in a single chat thread or broadcast to groups of people, but Messenger bots in groups cannot talk to you, crack jokes, or be conversational in any way you might think bots can.

With platform 2.0, bots don’t chat. They appear in webview as chat extensions. A graphic interface is extremely flexible and can look better than plain text, but the tradeoff is no natural language processing in the bot. That means anytime a bot is in chat with two or more people, it cannot listen to your words or speak to you, characteristics heavily associated with bots.

“Chat extensions do not listen to your messages,” Larionov told a room of a few hundred developers in a session Tuesday. “You cannot @ mention them. Instead, we are going all-in with webviews. Why? Because we want to reach user input and text is very limiting. We also don’t want bots to have access to your private conversations, and we don’t want to pollute your conversations with bot commands.”

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