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,
Lawrence, who was at the Messenger pavilion during F8, told CNBC that there's been "too much media hype" about bot technology — and not just on Facebook Messenger.
Several developers agreed and said software coders who try to trick online users into thinking that bots are humans are headed in the wrong direction.
"The key to software is making it as intuitive as possible," said Marty McDonough, a Los Angeles-based developer who has been writing iPhone apps for nearly a decade.
"People go on Messenger to interact with people, not bots," said McDonough, who has so far been disappointed with what bots are doing on Messenger.
"Once you try to be something you're not, users move on," he said.
Still, it's early days, and if bots can help create experiences like the one Lawrence's 12-person company designed for the BBC, online consumers may be seeing more of them.