Is Google working on a Facebook Messenger killer?

23 Dec 2015

Google and Facebook are on a collision course when it comes to putting AI bots inside messaging platforms to enhance discovery

As Facebook pushes to make Messenger the fulcrum of future e-commerce transactions by combining human and artificial intelligence (AI) agents, it turns out that Google is plotting something quite similar.

Google is understood to have been working diligently on a new mobile messaging service that incorporates its own chatbot technology.

At F8 this year, Facebook revealed its vision to enable consumers to interact with brands and service providers through Messenger (for example, asking where their package is, or changing an order for clothing).

At the heart of this will be an artificial intelligence technology simply known as M.

Last week, Facebook added a new Transportation option into Messenger that allows users to summon taxis similarly to how they do it on mobile apps. Ride-sharing service Uber was the first platform to embrace Facebook’s new technology.

While Google has the technology, it doesn’t necessarily have the audience numbers that Facebook boasts in social terms, as its struggling foray into social with Google+ has shown.

One of the good things to come out of Google+ is Hangouts, but still this languishes far behind Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger platforms.

Google is big into making alpha bets

Google, now a subsidiary of a bigger conglomerate called Alphabet, plans to integrate chatbot software into its own messaging apps, which will allow users to interact with search and services in a similar way to how users interact with Siri on iOS devices or Microsoft’s Cortana on Windows 10.

It is understood that Google has appointed veteran Nick Fox to lead the team that is working on the new Google messaging and AI service.

The idea is that instead of typing searches into Google’s search engine, users will simply converse with an AI bot.

It is a strategic move for Google, which faces threats to its predominance over search through the rise of services such as Siri, Cortana and now, more recently, Facebook Messenger.

Chatbot image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years