An anonymous reader writes from an opinionated article on TechCrunch by Tom Hadfield: If Facebook announces the "Messenger Bot Store" at F8, as many predict, it would be arguably the most consequential event for the tech industry since Apple announced the App Store and iPhone SDK in March 2008. Today, Facebook Messenger has 800 million monthly active users -- more than 100 times the number of iPhone owners when Apple launched the App Store. In January, TechCrunch first reported rumors of Facebook's secret Chat SDK for building Messenger bots. If and when Facebook announces a Bot Store, it will mark the "end of the beginning" of a new era: messaging as a platform. Over the summer, The Information broke the news that AI-powered Facebook M would enable Messenger users to make purchases, restaurant reservations, and travel bookings within the messaging interface. A Messenger Bot Store would have far-reaching consequences not only for entrepreneurs and investors, but also developers and designers. Sam Lessin, the CEO of Fin, says the rise of chat-based user interfaces will mark "a fundamental shift that is going to change the types of applications that get developed and the style of service development." For a time, bots were perceived to be plain-text exchanges and as such were often described as "invisible apps." As Jonathan Libov at USV points out, "just because the container is a messenger doesn't mean that all the apps inside are text-based." Tomaz Stolfa says there is "unexplored potential in blending conversational interfaces with rich graphical UI elements." If 800 million Facebook users start discovering bots in Messenger after F8, it will vindicate those who have been saying bots are the new apps.
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