Transcript of SonarCast #1: Chris Messina Discusses Future of Messaging

Matthew Berman, CEO of Sonar, recently sat down with Chris Messina, who coined the term “conversational commerce“, to discuss the future of messaging and bots.

Below is a transcript of the SonarCast:

Matt: Hello viewers and listeners, my name is Matt Berman and I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Sonar. We help businesses communicate with their customers on mobile messaging channels such as SMS and Facebook Messenger, and welcome to the SonarCast. During SonarCast, we invite industry leaders and innovators to talk about messaging apps, AI and bots, and how they relate to business to consumer messaging.

So, I’m extremely excited to welcome Chris Messina, who has been a leading voice in conversational commerce and business to consumer messaging. Welcome, Chris!

Chris: Thanks, Matt.

Matt: Chris currently holds the Developer Experience Lead position at Uber and has been a contributor on pivotal pieces of technology such as oAuth, Firefox and the Google Developer Program. He’s extremely bullish on business to consumer messaging, he actually invented the hashtag, he coined the conversational commerce word and we’re extremely excited to have him here today to talk about it all.

A lot of what has been happening in the US with regards to messaging has already happened in Asia with WeChat and other messaging apps. They’re a few years ahead of us and predictions say that we’re continuing the trend of following what’s happening in Asia. Are there cultural differences that need to be considered when were thinking about how the US will be adopting different messaging technologies?

Chris: Yeah, so, I’m not an expert on the Asian market, but you’re right, messaging has been a huge part of their usage and adoption of just the Internet, and there are a number of reasons for that. If you think about just the way that the Internet works and is accessed in China, it’s a much more restricted platform. Whereas in the United States, of course, it came out of our military and it was adopted by our educational institutions, and became a network effectively for sharing information, and so, that’s where it was for a long time. Slowly, we built these application frameworks on top of that document platform and that sort of gave rise to, and then eventually became the underpinnings of what more modern touchscreen devices allowed people to access information through. If you look at that rise, it’s a very different sort of source of use cases than Asia.

I think Asia particularly skipped a lot of the desktop era, in terms of mass adoption and usage, and went straight into mobile devices. So, as a result of that, the primary thing that you want to really to do on a mobile device is talk to other people. That’s true of the Internet as in terms of BBS and stuff like that. [pullquote position=”left”]If you start with mobile devices first, then chances are you’re going to be talking to other people through that platform.[/pullquote] The thing that also happens that I think is really important, different, again in Asia, is that, as I understand it, Chinese citizens, you have these government IDs or credentials that they can use to do various things through messaging, like pay for the laundry, rent, and they can buy cars, and stuff like that. Whereas, web and mobile payments in the United States has actually been fairly slow to gain widespread adoption. I think there is a lot of skepticism of the safety of the internet and so we’ve been very reluctant to use it, whereas in other cultures, there’s been just a move for the convenience of that platform.

Furthermore, in those countries, credit cards and banking isn’t as common as it is here. So, you would pay for things with mobile minutes, or things like that, that telcos would provide, and so their entire infrastructure and relationship to service providers was mediated through very different entities than they were in the United States. Regulation in the United States also affected what different businesses and companies could actually do and what kind of businesses they could engage in. So, there is an entire, I think, environmental difference. It’s not just cultural that defines why messaging is so powerful in Asia, but it’s also very different in terms of the way in which platforms are grown and built. As I understand it, again, WeChat has a much more centralized program for building apps, whereas, here, like the web and things like that, we try to make these platforms much more open. We sort of give permission freely. People can build them without asking for permission first and that isn’t the case in a lot of cases in Asia. Innovation happens in a very different way there and the mindset is different than what we see in the Silicon Valley, where there is a lot of competition and different ideas about how, when and why you would use different digital services.

(4:46) Matt: So, in China, for example, with WeChat, people are extremely familiar and used to actually doing entire transactions through this platform. They’re talking to not only their friends and family, but they’re also talking to businesses. Is that, we’re seeing that start to happen here, do you think the adoption will be fast in the US with actually doing purchases, and being really familiar and comfortable with talking to businesses over these channels?

Chris: I actually think it’s going to pretty messy for a while. I think again, in Asia, you kind of have to be on WeChat to do anything, to buy things in stores. As I understand it, I’ve only been to Asia, China once, when you go to a store, the first thing you do is scan the WeChat QR code to find that business and start to do interactions with them, whether that’s customer service or whether it’s payments and so on. In our case, because we have so many choices, whether it’s cash or credit cards, whether it’s like checks or all these different things, and given the way that banking works here as well, there’s not going to be the same sort of need or motivation for either end user customers or businesses to move right away. With that said, those businesses that do and get there early, and start to really understand both the opportunities and needs of their customers, and how to operate in these spaces in ways that feel very natural and native, and learn and grow and build as these platforms, specifically like Messenger, get built out. I think that they’ll be in a pretty privileged position in 2 to 3 years, maybe 4 years, especially as millennials in the next generation come of age and go through college.

If you think back to the early days of the web, 2003 and 2004, a lot of us were using Napster and other things like that to learn how to do file sharing and social networking and stuff like that. We’re at a similar point for messaging in the United States where people are using for example, Telegram, to share a lot of illegal files and things like that, but young people who are engaged in those behaviors are then learning the behaviors that they will translate into what they do in what they do when they become adults in this business legitimate world. It will hard to sort of feel, but a very slow shift of the underbelly of internet commerce away from the web and onto more mobile devices and screens. People are going to expect very discreet types of purchasing abilities. Anytime I see something that I think is cool on Instagram, I should be able to buy it and maybe that means going to direct messaging on Instagram, maybe that means going into Messenger to actually complete the purchase.

Matt: Right.

Chris: I think that’s maybe the way to think about it. [pullquote position=”right”]We’re moving away from the locust of this centralized website, where you aggregate all of your products and services and things like that, into more conversational context where people discover products and then want to actually transact with you.[/pullquote]

(7:50) Matt: So, it sounds like, in the US, at least, whoever, whichever messaging app figures out payments well, is going to be the leader and going to be the winner.

Chris: It’s not just about payments because there are several apps that do it already. Venmo has sort of been doing messaging and payments for a while, but they’re not really a messaging app per se, people don’t just go to it to talk to their friends. It has to be a number of things, where you’ve got the right amount of behavior, right volume of behavior, right sort of ease of use, right amount of openness so that anybody can hop on and start paying for things, but you also have to have other types of controls in place like spam and fraud abuse. Businesses are not going to want to move over to Messenger if 4% to 5% to 8% of their transaction volume is all fraudulent. I’m not saying that’s the number, but I’m saying that’s one of the things to consider. If you do a comparison with say between Messenger and Kik, Kik has a lot of teenagers, teenagers are going to start learning to pay with digital currency, as opposed to dollars and cents, and if they learn that behavior, that behavior may be one that they want take with them to whatever the next platform is that they use. I think it’s too difficult to say whoever nails messaging and payments is going to win. Messenger already has it, and another number of other platforms have it too, Skype has it, Snapchat has it. It’s more like when people are in that moment where they’re about to buy or purchase something, do they think of staying in that channel and executing that transaction vs going to some other channel?

(9:24) Matt: So, Chris, how do you think messaging apps specifically are going to change in the next 5 years?

Chris: Yeah, so, it’s a big question. We’re in 2016, the middle of 2016, the year of conversational commerce and you think back to 2011. What was going on in 2011 and if you think back even before that, you go back to 2007. 2007 was the year when the iPhone came out, so it’s almost 10 years ago, and that was also the year that Facebook launched its platform. If you fast forward to 4 or 5 years, I think that was right around, when did Instagram come out, I think Instagram was 2009, Snapchat might’ve been 2012. Anyways, so it’s very hard to say.

My intuition tells me that a couple of things are happening. One is that the number of services, I’ll call them services, because it’s not really about apps, the number of services that people engage with that have some strong digital component are going to increase, and the number of times you’re going to interact with those digital services is also going to increase. However, the amount of time you spend with each digital service needs to overall, by definition, go down because you only have so much time and attention available in any given day. So, those services which are asking for and demanding more attention than they really warrant, they are going to become more cumbersome and more frictionful such that you’re not going to want to spend time with them. What messaging represents, is a broad shift away from, what I would consider to be very focused intent computing that occupies all of your attention.

[pullquote position=”left”]Messaging allows us to move away from the desktop and keyboard and mouse paradigm of computing, which came out of the office world and this sort of enterprise space, and allows computing to now go with us wherever we are and to interact with services in an asynchronous way.[/pullquote] So, in this way, we’re starting to re-negotiate our relationship to technology, and rather than having us lean towards the computer to kind of figure out how to express ourselves in a way that the computer can understand, we are now on the verge of software and technology getting smarter through AI, advanced learning techniques, natural language understanding and processing, computer vision, all these sort of advanced things that take a lot of data and a lot of processing power to the point where the computing apparatus, sort of in the extensions of man, martian, including sense, are starting to lean towards us.

We can go about our day, do the things that we want to do, and suddenly we have access to a huge amount of information, and not just information that’s sort of like dumb facts, but insights that become actionable. We can start to make requests of the system through messaging to do things on our behalf. Just a simple example of this, you asked “what is messaging going to look like in 5 years?” As it is today, you and I can be talking in a Messenger thread, and you might mention “hey, come down to WeWork in San Francisco”, and on that little speech bubble is a “request a ride from Uber” annotation. That type of insight, that type of awareness, that type of anticipation of what my next intention or next action might be, I think is going to be incredibly powerful.

Today, a lot of those integrations, are happening largely in text-based form because those are easy for computers to understand, but increasingly those things will also be available through voice-based interactions. So, for example, you can now order an Uber through Siri, or through Alexa and the Amazon Echo, through third party voice apps like Houndify. We’re bringing in these superpowers into people’s lives in places in context where we wouldn’t previously have thought. I think that’s the metatrend, there’s all this smarts and all this intelligence out there, and now there’s all these APIs and all these services that are being broken up into smaller, discreet units and they’re meeting people where they are, in the moment when they need them, even if they don’t know about the service existing.

(13:30) Matt: Now, that makes a lot of sense and I’m wondering why are you so bullish that the conversational interface is the right way to go? Now, you also mention voice and I want to hear a little about that, but it feels like the text-based conversational interface is really the future, at least for the next few years. Why do you think that is?

Chris: Well, I want to be careful about something, like when I think of conversations, I actually think of multi-modal conversations. The conversational commerce insight really is about understanding there’s this huge volume of messages that people are sending to their friends and family and that, that behavior is one that feels very natural and normal and native to the mobile context. If that’s true, and you imagine that there’s a whole bunch of people who are getting their first mobile devices for the very first time in their lives, their first computing experience is going to be through messaging, their next question will be, well why can’t I message a business or a service. If the service is available through that means, then they can start having those conversations and interactions in a way that feels very normal to them. It might be text, but it might also be voice.

The thing is, humans are very good at communicating with partial meaning. Essentially, as you and I have a conversation, you may have no idea what I’m talking about, but the more that we talk, we’re negotiating meaning in this shared context and space. In the previous kind of era of computing, let’s say the Google era, you would sit there in a search box and you would type a bunch of random things until you kind of guessed at what the computer thought was what you actually wanted. It would give you like a series of 10 blue links and it was like going to the slot machine and just hoping that you’ll pull the right lever. Now, you can actually have a back and forth dialogue in a way that scales for many many millions of users and allows for there to be incremental improvement and clarity on getting to whatever your intention actually is. I think that’s much more natural for people. There’s much less cognitive overhead and people are able to guess at and move through their interactions with technology that’s more forgiving. I think that when I talk about conversational software, that’s what I’m thinking about. It’s more than the forgivability as opposed to the explicit types of UI elements that are very declarative, in other words, require a user and go push a button, wait, push another button, wait, see a form, fill out the form. All of those things are designed so that there’s very little ambiguity in the user’s expression towards the computer. I guess I feel like the opportunity is to really try to move in a way that makes computing just a lot simpler and easier for people.

(16:17) Matt: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and it’s basically instead of me trying to figure out what input is going to get the result that I want out of the computer, it’s actually the computer trying to figure out what I mean by what I’m trying to say.

Chris: And it’s looking at all the patterns and all the data that it’s previously collected and it turns out that we’re, and you know as much as we’d like to think ourselves as snowflakes, there’s a lot of common behaviors and common use cases and if the computer system has previously solved this problem for someone else or solved something that’s very close to what it is that you want to do, then it sort of finds that pathway and then proposes it. If the user is like, “no, no, that’s not it, it’s more like this”, then it starts to learn and shape in a slightly different way.

Now, obviously there’s a certain point at which you get very frustrated and I see this already with a lot of bots where one of the or two of the first questions is like “hey, how’s it’s going”, like “where are you”, like what do you mean where am I, like my phone knows where I am like Facebook knows where I am, like why is this information not related. Secondly, it’s like “what’s your timezone” or things like that, like basic sort of metadata about my experience and of course right now this is really, I think the platforms are being very conservative because they want to be very protective and they don’t want people to feel exposed and there’s not a lot of clarity around the ethics of how bots should behave, but that’s just sort of an example of these rote kind of experiences that will eventually sort of I think become part of, we won’t worry about those basic things as much.

(17:53) Matt: So, Chris, this is a question that I’m really excited to hear from you, what do you think the best use case for bots is right now?

Chris: This is very still TBD, I think. I think even like Facebook doesn’t have a clear idea about the best use cases, though they just came out with something today with some interesting examples. I mean if you think about bots more kind of like a product, it’s a product that you release and you sort of put into the world, these things are going to be constantly iterating and to the theme of my conversations. [pullquote position=”right”]To me, I think, products are conversations, they’re conversations that you have with people but how to serve their needs.[/pullquote]

Right now, given this sort of aspirational sophistication of bots, I would actually suggest that people trend towards being simpler, and to make very clear sort of promises of what they can do, and carve out the space around what they can’t do. There’s been a lot of conversations in the bot community around self-description, “I’m a bot, these are the things that I can do for you, I’m not really that skilled or equipped to do these other things”. There is a way actually with some bots where you can turn on, at least on Messenger, wit.ai which handles a lot of natural language questions, so you can ask it, “who was George Washington” and the bot will respond with an answer, but, that to me, actually is moving in a direction that doesn’t make a lot of sense because now you’re interacting with a system that has sort of vague contours and boundaries, and so you’re left kind of wondering and then of course frustrated when you try to do something very specific that the bot can’t handle.

So, to try to answer your question more clearly, 1) finding some fairly conservative but very useful use cases, and 2) I would think about a bot as being part of a continuum of interfaces to meet the needs of your customers. So you may still have a fully native app and it may make sense depending on your customers and depending on how much they interact with you to have the app, like in Uber’s case, for example, it makes sense for people to have the Uber app if they’re using it on a very regular basis. We optimize the heck out that experience because we know that experience well. We know what works, we know what converts, and we know it makes sense to people. However, we also want to be available in Slack, or in Messenger, or another context from a convenience perspective or from a new user discovery perspective. If you’re having a conversation with your in-laws that are coming into town from Montana and they’ve never used Uber before and you’re talking to them in Messenger, and you give them your address and there’s a button that says get a ride, you tap that button.

(20:30) Matt: Very convenient.

Chris: It’s super convenient and they don’t have to download the app, which maybe they only use once. So, I see it as another really really useful interface for very fast tasks or information retrieval along a spectrum of complexity and so at some point someone may need the desktop interface. I still love shopping on Amazon.com like in my full browser with my two screens and everything. Every now and then though, it might be interesting if I could talk to an Amazon bot to ask where my order is, that’s a lot more convenient for me than opening up the app, trying to find my order history, logging in, like doing all this other stuff, that could be handled through that kind of conversational interface.

(21:08) Matt: Now, at Sonar, we really believe in the hybrid approach, at least, where technology with bots currently is, meaning taking an agent and making them super powered…

Chris: …A human agent

Matt: …A human agent

Chris: That’s also an interesting topic.

Matt: So, I’m wondering if for an end user, do you think they want to be talking to a bot, do they want to know they’re talking to a bot, and then at a certain point, bots become so good that you really can’t tell the difference, are they going to want to know or are they okay thinking it may or may not be a bot?

Chris: I think this is why it’s going to be messy for a while. I think that a lot of people are going to think that they can lower all their support costs and customer service costs by just automating everything and in fact, you may not only lower your costs, but you may alienate out all of your customers. [pullquote position=”left”]You have to think about what the overall experience is going to be and whether or not automating certain parts of the service makes you feel more responsive to customer’s questions and concerns or whether it makes you feel more isolating and unwilling to actually bring a human element or touch to the interaction.[/pullquote]

So, for example, when I call the Apple store, usually it’s answered by a bot, it’s a human-sounding bot, but it’s a bot and it’s like, “Oh, what can I help you with, I can understand natural language things so tell me what you need” and so I’ll talk to it for a while, and I noticed that in the slightest hint of frustration on my part or confusion on the bot’s part, where it’s like, “I don’t know what’s going on, just hold on a second, let me get my supervisor, ‘the human’” is going to come in and offer you some actual empathy. I think that’s actually very very important and again it comes back from not thinking about how can I lower the cost of this interaction because you my customer are not that valuable to me, it’s how can I make your experience that much better by answering very basic sort of straightforward questions.

Let’s say “what are your hours when you open”, “do you have a sale going on this weekend” or whatever, and I don’t really want to talk to someone on the phone to get that kind of information. Furthermore, I mean when I message the bot with a complex task, like “Hey, I’d like a reservation for this evening for four”, and then the bot goes off and takes care of that work, and then returns the response to me without having to talk to someone or involve someone. So, there’s probably a nice gradient of effort, friction, work, simplicity, complexity, that can help you navigate that question. I don’t think that all customer service and support should go the way of bots. I think it’s more about how can you help both parties on both ends of the spectrum meet the needs of the other end and understand what the intentions are on both sides.

(23:52) Matt: I think you said a really important word, which is empathy. Today, it’s quite hard to build empathy into bots…

Chris: True.

Matt: …and that’s why having the agent with super power of a bot helping them is really important because you can have both the empathy and efficiency of automation, so…

Chris: …and yeah, actually, on that point, you had this question before, do people care or do they want to talk to bots?

Matt: Yeah.

Chris: …and again, I don’t think that’s quite the right framing. I think it’s more like how can you be clear about what kind of interaction is about to happen, whether it is a bot or a human, and what are the needs of the person helping you, how can you meet them as fast as possible. I think ultimately if a bot can do a better job than a human, great. If a human is going to understand my needs better because it’s complex, then put me in touch with a human.

Chris: Yeah, and also, I should add too that there’s a huge opportunity for augmenting human intelligence through bots. So, in the case where you have a customer service agent, there may be a bot in the channel, let’s say in a Slack channel, that’s only visible to the agent and offering suggested responses or product recommendations, or things like that, to provide context, like a typical kind of CRM tool that the end user doesn’t really need to see or doesn’t really know about, and yet the bot is facilitating the customer service rep doing a much better job. So, bots and humans collaborating to solve people’s needs, I think is totally valid and useful.

(25:22) Matt: Great. So, Chris, what’s one industry that you think is in desperate need of communication, a customer communication overhaul, and really could you use a messaging strategy? Now, for me, before you give your answer, I absolutely hate calling companies, like AT&T and Comcast. It’s a really terrible experience with the IVR, press “1” to do this…

Chris: Totally.

Matt: …and then giving your information to multiple agents. How much easier would it be to just send off a text, to send out a Facebook message, and just have it all done. So, that’s my answer. I want to hear what you think.

Chris: Yeah, I mean I think that those industries for sure are ready for this, but for me, it’s really about the government. Ultimately, most of the time, the interactions I end up having with the government fall back to some fax number that you have to like fax and I haven’t sent a fax since the ’80’s, if I even had one then. So, they want to have me send things in physical format and everything. The government, and also, because you’re dealing with some of the agencies, it’s always different, the information they’re requesting is different, and like you said, it’s somewhat redundant as well. So, in that context, in that space, I think the Estonians are moving very quickly forward with a lot of e-government stuff. I’d love to see us sort of make some progress there and I mean the sad irony or potential future for this, is that the private companies are going to have a lot of digital identities for the citizens, and ultimately through those platforms and channels are going to be how people are going to interact with the government, so I guess that’s both good and bad.

(26:56) Matt: Obviously, one government agency is the DMV…

Chris: Ugh, yeah.

Matt: That’s such a horrible experience. Imagine never having to step foot in that office again.

Chris: Yeah, sure. I mean it’s interesting too. I mean obviously, with Uber and like all the drivers and everything like that, there’s just a lot of overhead and if you imagine just cutting down costs and friction of being a citizen generally wherever you might be, by being able to message in some credentials or some information and just have your registration and all that stuff done for you, we could just make waiting in line something of the past, which gives so much more time back to people.

Matt: Yes.

Chris: Yeah, totally.

(27:34) Matt: The last thing Chris, I want to talk about is something that you launched a few days ago, something you launched, you launched your own bot, essentially called the Messinabot. Why did you do it? Tell us a little bit about it.

Chris: Yeah, so the Messinabot is something I launched earlier this week and it’s actually the second bot built by a Brainer company called Olabot, and my partner, Esther, built her own personal bot first, called Estherbot. The thinking for that was essentially try to make her resume, her LinkedIn profile, more engaging and richer essentially, and that the bot context was a great choose your own adventure kind of way of actually exploring that information. So, she ended up actually submitting her bot to bot camp which is a program that Betaworks is doing, which is funding a bunch of companies this summer. It turns out she got in and so she’s going to New York to build this thing out. So, Messinabot is the first bot that her company has produced and the idea and inspiration, I mean I think for me goes way back, having worked on the social web for a long time, having worked on oAuth, on all these technologies. The idea has always been to create a more user-centric, individual centric social web, and with a bot in particular, all this information gets centralized to the individual and so the example before where you’re asking me “well, what’s your location”, you’re coming to me to find some information. I’m the cardinal point of interaction. So, with the Messinabot, I get all these inbound requests via email via Twitter, all these different sources, people are asking to like spend time with me…

Matt: …to do a SonarCast

Chris: …to do a SonarCast. It’s just ridiculous. I mean it doesn’t happen that often, but it happens enough where I end up just being very bad at email and I feel bad, because a lot of the time there is a lot of information that people want or they need that I don’t need to write myself. It’s sort of out there, but it’s not accessible. So, the bot, if you interact with it, you can go to it at m.me/messinabot. It gives you a menu of options and those menus are primarily derived from again things that people are constantly asking me. So, it’s sort of like my personal FAQ, which is kind of interactive, you can ask me to hunt a prod for you because I get a lot of requests to do that, you can schedule office hours with me, so actually it looks at a Google calendar that I’ve set up and looks for open slots that I’ve set and so you can just flip those automatically. It’s sort of like a personal x.ai or Clara Labs type of thing and then you can also get a bunch of tips and things like that, that I’ve left of my Foursquare, you can get my cocktail recipe or what I posted in Bar Notes. What’s great about it is that you don’t have to be a user of Foursquare or Bar Notes or any of these other tools or services to have a need or curiosity about this information. So, you come to my bot and you start to explore and you get to see what’s there. One of the integrations that is super cool that we built, and I’m really excite about and starts to really demonstrate I think the future potential of these things to deliver personalized contextually relevant information, is that if you come to my bot and you connect your Uber account to my bot, so essentially you let my bot know whenever you’re in an Uber and where you’re going, my bot will send you my Foursquare tips based on your destination.

Matt: Very cool.

Chris: So, you might not have otherwise thought about like pulling up Foursquare and been like “Oh, has Chris been around here”, or any of your friends, but now using this very specific API that Uber opened up in January, we can now target information to you, my bot can target information to you, based on a bunch of relevant contextual information. So, it’s not just here’s a bunch of random stuff that like Chris has talked about or written about. It’s actually very tailored to you in your context.

(31:12) Matt: Now, you’re obviously at the cutting edge of all this and you’re very technically savvy. How do you see less savvy people start to adopt maybe personal bots? Is that going to be a thing, when will my mom have her own bot so I can actually chat with her, she can see where I am all day, which I know she wants to see, when will that happen?

Chris: It’s a great question. One of the reasons why I’m so excited about bots and what’s going on in the space and conversational software in general, is that it feels like we’re sort of at, we’ve done a big reset in the capabilities of the context that we’re building into. In other words, with messaging, you start out with just plain text and then from there, you start to add up a little bit of little information. I mean if you think back to the origin of the hashtag, which is also in 2007…

Matt: …which was you.

Chris: …which was me, yes. The idea and the concept was to try to find a way of labeling grouping conversations over Twitter and Twitter primarily was something that we used over SMS. So, if you’ve come to Twitter lately, you use it through the web or through native apps, you have a very rich experience, you can add photos, but in the beginning, Twitter literally only supported text, 140 characters. So, in that space, I had to find a way innovating around the idea of how to label these things and of course just adding the hashtag character before words suddenly became the way of denoting groups, so in a similar way, we’re at that point where we’ve got all this technological sophistication in the world and yet, we have this very very narrow channel through which we can send basic stuff and we’re starting to layer on other pieces of meaning so that we can be more efficient in the way that we communicate.

To answer your question, I think that because of how accessible this medium is, there’s going to be a lot people, especially young people, they’re going to be super excited about having their own bots and they’re going to be the ones that drive this revolution just like you and I did 10-15 years ago and getting personal homepages and blogs, and stuff like that. On the one hand, you could start out and you could be on someone else’s platform like on Instagram or Snapchat or whatever and those are very rich media centric kind of experiences. If instead, you want to create an interactive experience that projects your personality in a way that is different for everyone that experiences it, as opposed to sort of just a broadcast channel, I think bots provide that opportunity with very lightweight programming. Although, it may not be that case that the mass of all people are going to have personal bots in like in the next 1 or 2 years, I think increasingly that’s what we see across a number of social networks and platforms just because you know when your mom is looking for information about you, what you’re up to or what you’re doing, it would be useful if she could sort of come to your bot, ask it some questions, maybe schedule a vacation to come visit, and your bot could take care of that for you.

(34:10) Matt: Yeah, so I taught my mom how to text message with me and now she does it all the time. I taught her how to use Facebook…

Chris: Exactly.

Matt: …now, I’m going to teach her how to use bots…looking forward to that.

Chris: Yeah, I mean again to go way back again, like in the beginning, in 2004, people didn’t know what a web browser was so when we were promoting the idea of a web browser, we had to first figure out a way of helping adults conceptualize what kind of era it was, like the era of a web browser, sort of had Internet Explorer and just thought that was the internet. Just like today, people have Facebook, and that’s like the Internet. So, increasingly, what I think we’ll see is that young people and savvy users will start to interact with these messenger bots, agents, and assistance in a way that become social and they’ll start to teach their friends that, hey, you know you can talk to Virgin America or you can talk to this “Text and Chill” bot, which gives you like Netflix recommendations. There are these new experiences that are emerging in the messaging space and they start to become viral like peer to peer examples. So, I think that’s actually incredibly powerful because it allows people to then share the story and tell the story of how to discover the thing, how they used it, and that is a much deeper sort of resonance than trying to push something out organically.

Matt: That’s great, and your bot can be found at m.me/messinabot.

Chris: That’s right.

Matt: Awesome! Thank you. Well, thanks Chris for joining us. I really appreciate chatting about bots and messaging in general. It’s been really informative. You can find Chris @chrismessina on Twitter, and you can also find us @sendsonar on Twitter.


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