When Will WhatsApp Chatbots be Introduced?

WhatsApp is one of the largest messaging apps in the world, with over 1 billion users worldwide. In some countries, especially in South America and Europe, WhatsApp is by far the most used communication platform. In some countries it reaches a penetration of over 80% among smartphone owners!


Last year WhatsApp changed its Terms of Service, introducing a section where it describes the introduction of features that will allow customers to better interact with its customers. Here is a quotation:

New ways to use WhatsApp. We will explore ways for you and businesses to communicate with each other using WhatsApp, such as through order, transaction, and appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing. For example, you may receive flight status information for upcoming travel, a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made. Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you. We do not want you to have a spammy experience; as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make.

This is obviously talking about chatbots. That is, software that can chat with users autonomously. In fact Facebook has already introduced chatbots on the Messenger platform in 2016, and as you probably know Facebook bought WhatsApp a couple of years ago, so the messaging app will probably follow on the same steps.

Given the popularity of WhatsApp around the world, the question that both developers and businesses are asking themselves is when will WhatsApp introduce the chatbot APIs? No one knows for sure. The developer community was speculating that Facebook would make the announcement in its annual conference called F8, but that didn’t happen.

Although WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger share many features and functionalities, that is one key difference between the two messaging platforms: WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption. That is, all the messages on the platform are exchanged using a secret code that only the sender and receiver know, with the purpose of adding security to the communication. The challenge then becomes allowing developers to access an API to send an receive messages without breaking the end-to-end encryption guarantee. This is probably part of the reason while Facebook has been delaying the chatbots API on WhatsApp.

Another possible problem is spam. Facebook Messenger accounts are connected to Facebook accounts, with have at least some degree of verification. WhatsApp accounts, on the other hand, are only tied to a mobile number, and thus much more vulnerable to malicious users who would purchase a mobile number to spam people, and then just get another number when the first one gets banned.

Facebook will certainly resolve both of those issues, though, so it is only a matter of time until the chatbots API gets announced. It will certainly strengthen the chatbot space around the world, so stay tuned!

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