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Facebook wants to help improve Messenger bots

The social network has made a big bet on chatbots. Now it's trying to help software developers make them better.

Facebook is releasing tools to help improve Messenger chatbots.
Claudia Cruz/CNET

Facebook wants to give the bots a jolt.

Earlier this year at F8, the social network's most important conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed a big investment in chatbots, which use artificial intelligence to allow people to text with the software to help them do things like schedule calendar meetings or buy a pair of shoes.

Now Facebook wants to help software developers who create bots make them better. On Monday, the company said it would bring free analytics tools to its Facebook Messenger platform, where the bots live.

The company says businesses have built more than 33,000 bots on Messenger. With the new tools, bot makers will be able to measure the demographics of bot users, like age, gender, education level, relationship status, household income or retail spending. But Facebook emphasized the information is anonymous and in aggregate.

What that means for you, a Facebook Messenger user, is that maybe the bots will get a little smarter, and bot makers may be able to tailor the software better to the people using them.

Facebook is making a big bet that people would rather text with a bot than call a customer service line when they need help from a business. And recently, more apps, like one called Octane AI and another called Chatfuel, have popped up that offer DIY tools to let anyone make a chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

Facebook also said Monday that it is accepting bot developers to its FBStart program, which helps early stage mobile startups grow their apps.