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Chatbots are getting better at conversation. Or are they? by Sergei Burkov, Alterra.ai


Stashed in: Siri, Slack, Echo

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Conversational AI is not here yet.

That said, the buttons-based alternative is not an alternative either. The downsides are many:

  1. Boring, un-sexy UI. From vivid apps to blunt Nokia ’99 experience?
  2. Incompatible with Google Assistant API, which will be sending unstructured natural language queries to third-party bots. Bots that can’t understand them will lose Google’s referral traffic.
  3. No deep linking, no random access. To get one specific answer, you must traverse the whole tree-like menu, from the very top.
  4. No Borg Collective. Bots are siloed. They can’t pass information and users to each other. Are we willing to give up on the world wide web?
  5. No voice control. Where would you display on-screen buttons if there is no screen? (Think Amazon Echo or Google Home.)

How are no deep linking and HTML 1.0 considered good things?

Messenger is the new browser. Unfortunately, it’s a rather lousy browser. In its feature set it would hardly match Netscape 1.0. For example, Facebook Messenger API doesn’t support even basic formatting. There is no bold, no italic, no font size, no color, not even line break.

To add insult to injury, these new browsers don’t support existing websites. Developers must rewrite their websites to work with these new messenger interfaces. And they have to do it not once, but nearly a dozen times: for Facebook, Slack, Kik, Telegram, Skype, WeChat, WhatsApp, Google Allo, and who knows what else. Needless to say, messenger platforms cannot agree on a single standard. (Thank you, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, for giving us HTML!)

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