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.
Even Steve Jobs could not have foreseen the impact of what he described as “a new application that lets users browse, search, purchase and download third party applications directly onto their iPhone”.
By the time the App Store opened for business in July 2008, approximately 6 million people worldwide owned an iPhone. By the end of the year, the number of iPhone owners had more than doubled, and in each of the following years iPhone sales doubled and then doubled again. The App Store ecosystem – which now has more than 1.5 million iOS apps – heralded the arrival of a new “mobile” era.
Today, Facebook Messenger has 800 million monthly active users – more than 100 times the number of iPhone owners when Apple launched the App Store. Messenger’s current active user base exceeds even the total number of iPhones ever sold. Messaging apps now have more active users than social networks.
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. Conversational user interfaces are about to change the way billions of users interact with the world around them.