Here come the bots.
Facebook said Tuesday that it's going to start allowing companies to build chatty programs designed to, well, chat with its users.
Think of it as an early version of Rosie the robot maid from "The Jetsons," minus the physical robot. They're called "bots" in techie speak. You use them by opening Facebook's Messenger app on your phone, finding one of these little programs by searching for the name of the business, and then typing a message.
Some early companies building apps include cable news channel CNN, which can automatically send a list of stories on Messenger. If someone wants to know more about a topic, like the Zika virus, they just ask CNN and it delivers. Same with 1-800 Flowers. It will send a list of flower suggestions, and if you want to place an order, just respond and say who to send it to.
"You don't have to install an app or enter your credit card," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the company's F8 developer conference in San Francisco. "To order 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again."
Bots have become one of the hottest new things in the tech world, grabbing the attention of giants like Microsoft and business-software maker Slack, in addition to Facebook. The idea is to get people using various services without having to surf to a site or download an app. Now, they just find a bot and chat.
For Facebook, there's an added benefit. These bots mean people might use its social network even more than they already do. Imagine if you could order a taxi by sending a text message while chatting with your friends on Facebook; ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft have been offering that functionality since December and March, respectively.
Now even more of those types of apps are on the way, Facebook said.
"You probably interact with dozens of businesses a day, but I've never met anyone who likes calling businesses," Zuckerberg said. Now you won't have to.