When U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called for a surprise election this week, some readers of the BBC learned of the startling political news not from the news giant's website or Twitter feed, but from a piece of software known as a bot.
Within minutes of the announcement, consumers who follow the BBC's Facebook page received an automated digital alert, delivered via the social network's Messenger service.
Like a good journalist, it added some context.
Because it had been programmed to know that May's reasons for the move stemmed from Britain's decision to leave the European Union, it followed the alert with a question:
Might the newly informed reader want to take a quiz on Brexit?
A "yes" answer to that
"Does the EU limit the size of coffins?"
The question spoke to a concern of many pro-Brexit voters about over-reaching EU bureaucrats.
But there is no such limit, so that concern at least was unfounded.
A correct answer to the BBC survey
The entertaining animation was an example of how developers are continuing to experiment with Facebook's emerging bots platform. The company made its first push into
One reason may be that a lot of developers have been trying to imitate human conversation.
"People want bots to help them do things, not chat with them," said Syd Lawrence,