Earlier this year, Facebook said bots were coming to its Messenger app. Well, you might not have realised this, but they're already available.

Many bots have actually been available for months. It's hard to tell, however, because they're buried in the Messenger app and hard to locate. But they aren't hard to use. You can use them to play trivia and games like hangman, or you can order flowers and get customer service support. The possibilities are endless. Bots are designed to not only bolster your chat experience but also make life easier for you.

Here's everything we know so far about Facebook Messenger bots, including what they are and how you can find them.

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Facebook in April announced new tools for developers that will allow them to build bots for Facebook Messenger. These bots can add a whole new array of functions to Facebook's messaging app. For instance, Facebook has envisioned a future where you use Messenger to interact with businesses and vice versa. Bots will basically blend artificial intelligence with human interaction.

The idea is that you'll go to Messenger for customer support or to get your news or to order flowers. In a demo at the F8 developer conference in 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, showed example bots from CNN and 1-800-Flowers. The CNN bot serves up a daily digest of news stories that are tailored to you over time, while the flowers bot lets you place an order using conversational language.

David Marcus, head of Messenger, announced at F8 2016 that the beta version of Facebook's new Messenger Platform would go live 12 April, meaning developers could immediately get started on creating bots for the app. Just one month later, Stan Chudnovsky, Messenger’s head of product, told TechCrunch that “tens of thousands” of developers are building bots.

Facebook hasn't announced how many bots are currently available nor does it have an official list posted anywhere. However, Botlist, which is described as an app store for bots, has this list of Facebook Messenger bots now available. Example bots include Digg, NBA, Emoji News, Mealou, Complex, theScore, Trivia Blast, Operator, Hangman, etc.

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Web

  • Go to Botlist, and then select the Facebook Messenger platform.
  • Browse the bots available for the Facebook Messenger app, then find a bot you want to use (like Mealou, which recommends the best restaurant in your area based on your tastes), and click on it.
  • Look for the Chat on Messenger link on the bot's page and click it. Messenger's web app will then open with a chat window for the bot.
  • Click the Get Started link at the bottom of the chat window to get started.

Note: You can also search for a specific bot name using the search bar on the left-hand side of the Messenger web app.

Android

  • Download and open Facebook Messenger for Android (it's free to download and use).
  • Under the Recents tab (clock icon), you'll see a button toward the bottom with a plus sign. Tap it.
  • You'll then see the option to Search. Tap it.
  • Facebook Messenger will then show you a small selection of bots it recommends (beneath a list of people you can start chats with).
  • You can also use the search bar at the top of this screen to search for other available bots.
  • Once you've found a bot, tap on it to open a chat window for the bot, then tap Get Started at the bottom of the window to get started.

iOS

  • Download and open Facebook Messenger for iOS (it's free to download and use).
  • Under the Home tab (house icon), you'll see a search bar at the top. Tap it.
  • Facebook Messenger will then show you a small selection of bots it recommends (beneath a list of people you can start chats with).
  • You can also use the search bar at the top of this screen to search for other available bots.
  • Once you've found a bot, tap on it to open a chat window for the bot, then tap Get Started at the bottom of the window to get started.

And that's it.