Tech Transformers

Facebook Messenger now has 11,000 bots on its platform

The importance of bots: Facebook Messenger VP
The importance of bots: Facebook Messenger VP

Facebook has over 11,000 bots and 21,000 developers building them on its Messenger platform, the social networking giant's head of Messenger told CNBC on Friday, after releasing a slew of new features for the service.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched the Messenger Platform - tools to allow developers to make chatbots for the Messenger app. Chatbots are essentially automated apps within Messenger that allow you to carry out tasks such as ordering flowers or finding out the weather, just by chatting to this artificial intelligence (AI) system.

Many brands have got on board to create their own chatbots. For example, during the NBA finals, users could write to the NBA bot to receive highlights and updates. Bots are a huge focus for Facebook and could pave the way for further commerce via Messenger and the broader Facebook platform as well.

"The idea with payments generally is that we don't want to be in the business of payments, but what we want to do is to create a really frictionless experience so that if you need to buy something on Messenger or even on Facebook, you remove the friction from that especially on mobile," David Marcus, Facebook's head of Messenger, told CNBC in a TV interview.

"That's what we want to do to just to enable our partners to sell more on the platform. We are continuing to develop more solutions to enable that."

Facebook's Messenger Platform opened just over 10 weeks ago and the latest figures appear to suggest enthusiasm from the developer community. Around 23,000 developers have signed up to use the tools provided by - a company Facebook recently acquired which allows people to create bots.

Messenger also got a number of new features on Friday. A "quick reply" feature will give users a set of common answers they can just tap to respond to a bot's question. And a "persistent menu" option gives users commands, such as "buy items", so they don't need to type it out.

Brands are also now able to send GIFs, audio, video, and other files to users of their bots.

Users will also now be able to log in to accounts for websites they use within the messenger app, if the company creating the bot allows this. For example, Facebook's blog shows an online store called Parade of Books. The bot asks users to log into their Parade of Books within Messenger, and then they can buy items and get recommendations.

Facebook is also allowing users to mute bots, just as they would a conversation with friends and leave ratings for the bots too, like users do with an app.

With the new features, Facebook will be hoping to keep the 900 million monthly active users it has on Messenger within the app, allowing them to shop, speak to customer service bots from brands, and get information on anything from the news to the weather.