The tech industry is abuzz with hype surrounding the chat bot. These personal assistant-like automated accounts live within your chat apps and can help with things like bookings, calendars, and so on. Instead of having to download extra apps to use chat bots, you can simply head to the messaging apps you most likely already have installed on your phone.
So where does Kik come in? The company just launched its own bot store, which is essentially the bot version of the App Store — developers can create bots for the company’s store and once they’re approved, you can access them right in the app.
Kik is offering a few bots as part of the store at launch, including The Weather Channel, Vine, and FunnyOrDie; but any developer can use Kik’s tools to create their own bot for the store. You can check it out online here.
Bots can only perform basic tasks at the moment, but they have huge potential. Part of their rise to popularity is due to how easy they are to use. You don’t have to download a new app to use them, and they work on any device with the app installed, regardless of operating system. As such, any Kik user can jump on the bot bandwagon.
“Chat is going to be the next great operating system. Apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new internet,” said Kik CEO Ted Livingston in a recent article on Medium.
Kik isn’t the only one banking on bots. Facebook is expected to unveil its own bot store at its annual developer conference next week, and Microsoft took the wraps off of the new version of Skype, which heavily features chat bots, last week.
The fact that Kik launched its bot store a week before Facebook isn’t a huge deal for the social network, especially when you consider the popularity of Messenger. However, Kik’s rising popularity among teens may be cause for concern at Facebook. If the social network wants to convince Kik’s users that its bot store is better, Facebook will have to launch with more partners than Kik.
It remains to be seen exactly how the general public reacts to bots, which will ultimately determine whether or not they really are the next big thing.