A few years ago a slightly forgotten (a least in Western eyes) mobile messaging app called Nimbuzz launched little ‘chat bots’ on its platform. The bots could tell you about the weather or your horoscope. Although the platform was eventually sold, it became clear to me at that point how powerful the potential was for this idea.
Today, a new messaging war is being waged, whether it be Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Snapchat or Telegram. But it’s the latter that, although smaller, continues to come up with a number of innovative ideas.
For starters, Telegram is poised to come out with Apple Watch support and, as I hinted, a brand new Bot platform (this will be in Telegram 3.0 for iOS). If you want you can also get a preview here.
Pavel Durov of VK.com fame, recently explained to me how the Bot API and platform will allow third-party developers to create Bots which are simply Telegram accounts operated by software sporting A.I.-like features.
This means the platform will ping other services as well, such as ‘Internet of Things’ platforms. To me this seems like a missed opportunity for a company like Twitter and rich one for a startup like Telegram.
Examples of this might be an image bot integrated with the Bing Image search API or an empty conversation with a poll bot.
In large part, users will not have to type anything, because the bots will provide them with a set of custom buttons.
Instead of typing, Telegram’s Bots can provide users with custom keyboards for specialised tasks such as a ‘Hot or Bot?’ application
Or a sticker rating bot with a custom keyboard.
Here are some sample bots that were built by the platform’s beta testers this past weekend:
@ImageBot – send this bot a keyword and it’ll provide you with a relevant picture.
@TriviaBot – test your trivia knowledge or add to groups to compete with friends.
@PollBot – add this one to group chats to create polls.
@RateStickerBot – discover and rate new stickers.
@AlertBot – set a time and this bot will send you a reminder for anything you like.
@HotOrBot – find friends with this Tinder-like dating bot.
@GithubBot – track GitHub updates.
New Bot developers only needed a few hours to build these bots. They just generate a key with @BotFather and use a simple https API to control the bot.
Bots in Telegram look different from human users as they have a slightly different UI and they don’t have access to all messages by default when added to groups.
Telegram Bots can also go viral. Any forwarded message contains a link to its original sender. This means any message from your bot forwarded to a person or group is a messaging equivalent of a retweet – thus making bots inherently viral. All bots have an Add To Group and a Share button as well.
There are many more aspects to Telegram’s Bots, but I think you get the drift. What’s going to be interesting is that other messaging platforms have tended to avoid this area, especially in mainstream areas like Facebook Messenger.
Just as Nimbuzz made good use of them in its platform, we think this could be one of the things that helps Telegram tip over into an even more useful product and an interesting competitor to the bigger players.