Skype Bots Gather Groups, Make Friends With Facebook
A new developer update adds support for group conversations, Facebook bot features and a new way to organize content for users.Developers can now target group conversations, link with Facebook and generally do more with their Skype bots, courtesy of an update to the Microsoft Bot Framework. Microsoft Bot Framework, announced at the software giant's Build 2016 developer conference earlier this year, includes a Bot Builder SDK (software development kit) and the Bot Framework Developer Portal, the latter of which enables developers to connect their bots to other popular online services. A Bot Directory is in the works, and will initially feature bots that debuted at the conference. Microsoft debuted its "Conversations as a Platform" vision during Build 2016. The company hopes to usher in an era of conversational intelligence, or an ecosystem of devices, software and cloud services that enable users to complete tasks or transact businesses as simple as striking up a conversation with a friend, co-worker or customer support representative. Initially, Microsoft is focusing its efforts on Skype and its massive user base by releasing a handful of Skype bots along with developer tools to help set the stage for more. So far, Microsoft appears to be off to a good start. The company estimates that more than 30,000 developers have begun building bots since it introduced the technology in March.
Skype bots appear as contacts once users select the "Add bots …" option. Currently, choices include a virtual assistant for enterprises called Ava Zoom, the Hello Stranger text game and Bing News, among a smattering of others. After releasing the first batch Skype bots for the Windows, Android, iPhone and iPad apps during Build, Mac users were finally able to take the tech for a spin in April.