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Bots are coming to Facebook Messenger

Bots bots bots bots bots.

Kurt Wagner/ Re/code

You will soon be able to chat with a robot using Facebook’s messaging app, Messenger.

Facebook announced a new API on Tuesday that will allow developers to build bots into Messenger. The idea is that brands and retailers like 1-800-Flowers or CNN can connect with users via messaging, and automate those conversations to eliminate the need for human-to-human interaction.

That means you’ll soon be able to order flowers through private messaging without ever needing to chat with another human, for example. CNN and 1-800-Flowers were named onstage as early partners, but it’s likely that many more will be shown off throughout the day.

The bot news, which was announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg onstage at the company’s annual F8 developer conference in San Francisco, is part of Facebook’s overall plan to get more of its 900 million Messenger users interacting with businesses, not just their friends.

This idea first came about at last year’s F8 conference, where Facebook launched a Messenger platform so that these kinds of integrations would be possible down the road.

It has been very particular since then about which brands are allowed to build inside its app. Uber and Lyft have integrated, for example, but a bot API opens this up more broadly. Facebook will likely move slowly on approving these bot services, but as users get more comfortable chatting back and forth with a bot or a business the floodgates will probably open.

Here’s how Facebook’s head of messaging David Marcus explained it to us last fall:

“You don’t want to call your airline or your bank. You don’t want to call anyone for business purposes, actually. It’s not that fun. [We want to] change that interaction model to make it look and feel more like it used to in the good old days, when you walked into stores and had great interactions with the businesses you care about.”

The more tasks you can accomplish within Messenger, the more likely you are to open the app every day. And the more purchases you make inside Messenger, the more potential revenue for Facebook.

Update: Marcus followed Zuckerberg onstage to share more details on Facebook’s bot ambitions.

There will be a way to search for bots in the app, and developers can advertise their bots on Facebook’s News Feed, driving users to Messenger to interact with the bot.

For those who don’t know how to build bots (or may not have the technical artificial-intelligence chops to handle the language recognition challenges), Facebook is offering a “bot engine” to help developers build them. That engine will be powered by, an artificial intelligence startup it bought in January of 2015 to help people chat with robots.

Marcus announced a few early partners, like shopping app Spring, but said the company will approve all bots as they are rolled out.

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