-- Get ready to make friends with a bunch of chat bots.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Messenger Platform at the start of the company's annual F8 developer's conference today in San Francisco. The new service is a framework powered by artificial intelligence, allowing developers to build chat bots that can communicate one on one with users in a conversational tone. The more use, the more personalized a bot can be in serving a user.
It's a tantalizing thought: Log onto Facebook, order a pizza from a chat bot, ask another to look for vacation packages while sending a bouquet of flowers from a third without ever leaving the social network.
"You probably interact with dozens of businesses every day ... but I’ve never met anyone who likes calling a business and no one wants to install an app for every business or service they want to interact with," Zuckerberg said.
More than 60 billion messages are sent per day across Messenger and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, according to Zuckerberg, accounting for three times the volume of SMS text messages. He pointed out that these services are continuing to grow, with Messenger reaching a 900-million user milestone earlier this month.
With so many people on Messenger, the addition of a chat bot framework builds on Zuckerberg's F8 announcement last year, when he showed how businesses can leverage Messenger to chat with customers.
"It's this notion of conversations as a service," Patrick Moorhead, an analysts at Moor Insights & Strategy, told ABC News. "The whole element of bots are we can use them exactly like we chat today -- over SMS or Messenger. Imagine connecting with a company where it automatically is either a real human or uses AI to know exactly what you want."
Last month, Microsoft laid out its plan for bringing more bots to its platform at the company's annual Build developer's conference. Messaging service Kik launched a bot shop last week, including offerings from Funny Or Die, Vine, Sephora and various other shops.
F8 is scheduled for today and Wednesday in San Francisco. The event is geared toward developers but always yields some new insight about the future direction of Facebook.