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Messenger is finally making it easier to find and use bots

Messenger is adding new QR codes and a bot discovery tab.

New Zealand v Pakistan - 1st Test: Day 2 Kai Schwoerer / Getty

It’s been one year since Facebook Messenger first unveiled its bot platform in the hope that brands and retailers would use the app to automate messaging conversations with their customers.

Since then, developers have created tens of thousands of chat bots — they just aren’t very easy to find.

Messenger is hoping to change that. The company is rolling out a new discover tab inside the app that will categorize bots by industry, provide featured suggestions, and includes a bot-specific search function. It’s a bit like an app store, but for bots.


The company is also rolling out new QR codes to bot creators that, when scanned, bring the user into a conversation with the bot. The hope is that people will interact more often with Messenger bots that they come across in the real world, like at a concert or a restaurant.

Messenger already offered QR codes, but Messenger boss David Marcus admitted at the company’s annual developer conference Tuesday that theses types of codes aren’t as popular in the West as they are for messaging apps in Asia. “But we’re going to give this another go,” he said Tuesday from the stage.

Imagine a ballgame where scanning a code on the back of the seat places you into conversation with a bot where you can ask for player stats, find the nearest hotdog vendor or order merchandise from the team store.

The codes don’t work for payments just yet, but that seems likely to be developed. Messenger already offers peer-to-peer payments, and scanning a code to pay for a meal or purchase a movie ticket seems like a logical next step. (Though Messenger doesn’t plan to make money from facilitating these kinds of transactions.)

Messenger announced the changes Tuesday at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif. It’s the same conference where Facebook announced the Messenger platform in 2015 and rolled out its bot ambitions last year.

Messenger has had a busy April. Earlier this month it announced that artificial intelligence technology would start making suggestions for things to do inside users’ private conversations, and it also rolled out group payments last week.

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