Chatbots land on Skype's Mac client and web app

If you’ve been dying to try out Skype bots but don't have a Windows PC, Android, or iOS device to chat on, you’re finally in luck. Skype recently rolled out bot integration to the Mac client and the service’s beta web app.

There are only six bots to try out right now, which is to be expected since this is still a preview feature. Despite the small numbers, some of the automated services are fairly useful. Give Bing News some keywords such as “Presidential election” and you get three recent headlines for that topic.

Skype’s current bot selection shown on the web app.

You can do this for pretty much any news subject, and if keywords feel too artificial the bot accepts natural language as well such as “what are the latest headlines for Intel?”

Of course, to use the new bots you have to know how to activate them. On Mac, go to Contacts > Add Bot... to start chatting. Web users will see a new Discover Bots option on the left-hand navigation panel. Navigate to either option, add the bots you want to your contacts, and start chatting.

Why this matters: Bots that deliver basic information in a chat window are nothing new. The now defunct Google Guru, which delivered sports results, weather, world times, definitions, etc., is a notable recent example. But with messaging apps seen as the next great app-enabled platform, chatbots are making a comeback.

Facebook and Microsoft are each working on bots that offer more than just canned answers. Facebook Messenger has a KLM bot that acts as your personal concierge. Both Messenger and Skype offer news bots that deliver headlines, while Microsoft’s Summarize for Skype tries to give you an automated summary of a webpage. Despite all the excitement, however, it’s far from clear if we, as users, are ready to adopt chatbots into our everyday lives.

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