A messaging app loved by teens just beat Facebook to one of its major announcements

Ted Livingston Kik

Facebook’s debut of a bot store is already being heralded as the “most important launch since the App Store.” Except that it hasn’t happened yet. 

Kik, a messaging app favoured by teens, beat them to the punch today by announcing its own bot shop first. 

Chat bots are being touted as the next-generation platform, replacing most of the apps you use today. 

People are tired of downloading apps, creating new accounts, and then learning how to use them, explains Kik CEO Ted Livingston. Instead, the next generation of bots act in place of those apps.

For example, Livingston wakes up every morning and asks The Weather Channel bot on Kik what the temperature is like. Then, since he’s already on Kik, he could switch to another bot that could tell him a joke or maybe tell him what’s on his calendar. Instead of swapping in between apps and interfaces, bots make it easy to turn a messaging app like Kik into the only thing you need to use on your phone while still getting the same information your normally do. 

The “Bot Shop” makes it easy for any developer to make their own bot — whether it’s a useful bot like The Weather Channel’s or a make-up tutorial bot like Sephora’s.

“We see it as early days of the App Store, early days of the web, where people are going to try a lot of stuff,” Livingston said.

Kik bot shop

There’s a full spectrum, from dumb bots that you can tell are clearly robots to the “smart bots” like Siri or Cortana or from the movie “Her” that know your life, Livingston explains. They’re not building a Siri know-it-all bot themselves, but are opening it up for anyone to build bots in any part of the spectrum — especially if they target Kik’s teen userbase. 

“Because of that, if you’re a business that has a lot of teens walking into your store, it’s better to build a bot for Kik than for Facebook,” Livingston said.

Tuesday’s Bot Shop launch is just the tip of the iceberg though for Livingston’s bot ambitions. The CEO is already looking one step ahead at making bots useful outside of your phone. 

“Over time where we see the killer application for bots is in the offline world,” Livingston said. 

No one wants to download another restaurant app and put in their credit card information just to order.  Livingston sees an opportunity in being able to come into a restaurant, scan a code, and have the restaurant bot appear in the chat. And instead of typing out all of the food they want, they should be able to easily say they want the same thing as last time and charge it to the same card.

It’s a big vision, but Livingston knows the Bot Shop is just the start to see what people do with this next wave of technology.

“Like all things I think people underestimate how much time it will take, but I think people underestimate just the impact it has once it gets going,” Livingston said.

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