The Rise Of The Bot: Why Old-School Tech Could Help Usher In Web 3.0

Shelly Dutton

It’s always fun to watch something old become new again. I personally enjoy revisiting my youth with my children when we watch the latest Star Wars sequel, or head to the mall where my tween daughter covets a pair of boyfriend jeans ripped at the knee. Yes, it appears that everything old can be new again at any moment.

Could the same be true for technology? Don’t be too quick to dismiss the power of “old-school” tech in innovation.

Take Mark Zuckerberg’s 2016 resolution, for example:

zuckerberg-facebook-status

Tech novices view Zuckerberg’s dream of creating his own all-knowing, omnipresent, invisible butler as a refreshing, innovative approach to the Internet of Things. Yet for those who have been in the tech world since the infancy of the Internet, this may be an opportunity to perfect and unleash the full potential of an earlier form of Web technology: bots. 

Bots 2016: Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes

At the turn of the 21st century, bot developers were focused on creating software that automated the routine, mundane, and low-skill tasks that proliferated across the Internet. One great example is Web crawlers that seek out and index websites for search engines. However, technologists still argue whether there is more in store for this technology. Many even go as far as believing that bots could fake the Turing test to appear human, act human, and anticipate human needs.

Although it has taken 16 years for the mainstream to reexamine the potential of bots, it doesn’t mean they were ignored. Rather, they were put on the back burner while tech businesses chased the mobile revolution. Meanwhile, aspiring developers working out of their bedrooms and dorms, and frustrated, tech-savvy consumers wanting something better continued to tinker with the idea.

Why is the tech industry now taking the lowly bot more seriously? It’s all about volume. Today we are experiencing an onslaught of human-generated content in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, comments, and product and service reviews. Plus, it’s hard to dispute that Internet use and interactions are quickly becoming a way of life. Media is increasingly interactive, and more voices are being heard.

Very much like the phoenix that settled into its nest of twigs to burn ferociously and later emerge better than before, it appears that bots may be rising again – renewed and reborn.

The quest for making Web 3.0 a simpler, informative experience for all

Is 2016 the year bot experiences lead to simpler, yet more informative, user experience on the Web? Software developers like Slack Software are betting on it. In a recent article in The Verge, Slack’s vice president of product management April Underwood predicted that “by the end of 2016, we’re going to see more really great examples of household-name companies creating great bot experiences.”

What could those experiences be? Here’s a short list of how bots can make our lives simpler and, dare I say, more enjoyable:

  • Keep activities moving – even when you’re not available. Messaging bots can initiate action and respond to requests from other people. Not only can bots automate conversations, they can trigger transactions and workflows immediately. For example, business functions in sales, HR, operations, administration, finance, and other areas can be automated and connected to each other.
  • Purchase an item at the price you want before it is out of stock. Watcher bots can notify you when a specific event happens. Whether you’re interested in when ticket sales for a much-anticipated concert open or when a pair of Kate Middleton’s favorite Stuart Weitzman heels goes on sale, these bots will make sure you get what you want without breaking the bank.
  • Get relevant content served to you without wasting time searching. Content bots can share relevant content that interests you. Weather, local news, global events, politics, or anything else – you can enjoy the convenience of getting the information you want, when and where you want it.

However, other pundits still think the bots’ time is not yet here. In fact, ambitious bot initiatives, such as Facebook M, still have a long way to go before they are out of the beta phase. And even some of today’s digital assistants – Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa, for example – are still limited in adding value to consumers who are more comfortable with text search than assistants powered by voice. Plus, consumers want to initiate the search as if they are interacting with another person, and then have artificial intelligence find the information and serve it up immediately on mobile and desktop devices. Not by voice, and not by e-mail; text messaging is preferred by an overwhelming majority.

Whether Underwood’s prediction happens this year or not, it’s obvious that we are on the cusp of an emerging and potentially transformative trend. But maybe 2016 will prove that even “old-school” tech can hold the key to breakthroughs that can change everything we know about the Internet, our daily lives, and our world.

Want more insight on future-focused tech trends? See The Digital Economy: Disruption, Transformation, Opportunity.


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