May 5th 2016

Updated Position on Chat Bots

I've been very bullish on chat bots, conversational interfaces and messaging apps. Like a bunch of other people trying to show they realize things faster than everyone else, I predicted in a blog post that bots will become what apps are today.

However, I'd like to update my position a bit, based on an important fact that I completely missed.

Marketers and advertisers will likely ruin chat interfaces.

Traditionally, every new human interaction pattern and every form of entertainment ends up as a vehicle for ads. Like those moths that infest and kill trees or parasites that kill their host, the general pattern is that marketers flood every new medium until there's either too much competition or the viewers have left.

If we start to see or hear ads in our conversational UIs, then maybe I don't feel so great about them taking over as an ubiquitous interface pattern.

Humans today don't just accept ads like we used to. We'll leave.

However, since a lot of the chat bot ideas floating around involve commerce, maybe chat bot platforms can afford to skip the traditional ads this time around.

Or maybe companies will just advertise to you until you use their bot.

We'll see, but this will decide whether we'll all just ask for things or we'll keep downloading separate apps for separate tasks.

Don't tell anyone, but there are plenty of people besides me (including the makers of conversational platforms) who realize this as well. I'm confident they'll understand the implications and the state of our ad tolerance and get a little creative with how they make their 💸.