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Not Every Bot is a Chatbot – What Are the Differences?

Not Every Bot is a Chatbot – What Are the Differences?

Ola Bilińska 21.02.2019
Ola Bilińska

“Did bots help Duda win the presidential election?”. This sentence is making the headlines of the most popular news media in Poland. We get asked a lot whether chatbots could have been involved in generating “automatic posts” from fictional accounts. We deny the rumors! No chatbot has influenced the election results ?

However, I do understand where all this speculation comes from. The words bot and chatbot are often used interchangeably, even by us – after all, our company’s name is KODA Bots, not KODA Chatbots. This leads to misunderstandings and sometimes – to negative associations. That’s why I won’t use these words as synonyms here. I’ll focus on the differences between bots and chatbots and resolve all your doubts once and for all.

Let’s Start With the Basics

The development of technology has always been accompanied by our curiosity and we have constantly been asking ourselves “Can machines think?”. Already in the early 20th century, we challenged ourselves to create “intelligent machines”. They were supposed to perform human activities, including language interpreting and imitation of speech in conversations. Bots and chatbots have been around for quite a long time and they have taken different places in the world of technology. To those, who don’t use them on an everyday basis, they may seem to be the same thing. But they’re not ?

Bots are the most general term we’ll discuss. In short, we use this word to define tools that focus on automating repetitive tasks (scripts) over the Internet. They usually run in the background  – much more efficiently than it would be possible for a human alone. I want to make it clear that even though bots usually appear in the media in a negative context, not all of them are bad. Technology is like a rubber band – it can be used in a variety of ways ?

Chatbots, as the name suggests, automate mainly conversations. We create them in close collaboration with brands, helping companies build a positive image in the eyes of their clients. Chatbots answer to frequently asked questions, guide users through repetitive processes (purchases, returns), or can even become a self-sufficient contest platform if you want so. The rule by which we abide is that the user should always be conscious of the fact that he’s not talking to a human being.

Bots On Two Sides of One Coin

As I have mentioned before, not all chatbots can have a negative impact on the Internet, or even further, on the world of politics. We can divide bots into good and bad ones. Good bots, without which the Internet could not function effectively, make it possible to run large numbers of tasks in the background. The Google bot crawls the web, collecting new websites and indexing them for the search engine, the Youtube bot makes sure users respect the copyright law (to varying effects, but still ;)). Considering the number of web pages and online videos, this would be impossible to do without the help of machines.

According to the Bad Bot Report 2017 by Distil Networks, in 2016, good bots were responsible for 18,8% and bad for 19,9% of web traffic. Bad bots can, among others, generate fake displays of websites (at the same time blocking the page the user wants to visit) or send spam. Recently, bad bots most often appear in the media in the context of their speculated impact on politics. Perhaps it’s because there are companies that specialize in generating automatic posts on social media – in a number and speed that is impossible to achieve by humans.

  1. legally collect and provide data
  2. allow users to find given websites quicker
  3. make sure users obey the law
  4. improve users’ security (e.g. they delete content that breaks copyright law)
  5. adjust displayed ads to the needs of users
  1. send spam
  2. overload websites
  3. impersonate people on social media accounts
  4. generate fake content (often in a negative context)
  5. steal data from users

Where Can You Find Chatbots and Bots?

We can divide chatbots into those that are used in instant messengers (like Skype and Messenger) and voice assistants (sometimes called 3rd generation [chat]bots, e.g. Siri or Alexa). Chatbots hold simple, schematic conversations but they can also resemble extended mobile apps hidden in your messenger. They also make it easier for brands to reach their users, since they don’t require finding, downloading, and using an additional app.

Bots are much harder to find because they run in the background. They can, however, transform into hundreds and thousands of fake social media accounts (e.g. on Twitter) and raise certain subjects artificially, shaping the opinions of their followers. What, at first glance, seems to be the biggest problem, is determining whether a given account is real or fake. The last events have shown that bots may raise suspicion even after several years since their last activity, when the whole case is already outdated.

Artificial (or Maybe Real?) Chatbot Intelligence

Since I’m discussing bots and chatbots, I’ll debunk the myth of artificial intelligence that often appears in their context. We can find this term in almost every definition of bots and chatbots but even though it sounds very grand, it is often overused. Chatbots can do a lot but most of them do not use artificial intelligence. At this moment, it’s usually “real intelligence” that stands behind them – people who, on the basis of careful research and analysis, optimize the tool, create further paths, scenarios, or predict the users’ behavior.


Bad news is good news, good news is no news

Why do the Media Rarely Talk About Chatbots?

Even though sometimes bots hit the headlines, we can read about chatbots mainly on technological or marketing news channels. Why only there? First of all, the media want to attract the attention of readers, embellishing their stories to the limit – after all, bad news is good news, good news is no news. It’s much easier to get through to Polish newspapers or TV with a topic presented in a negative context. Second of all, as I have mentioned, chatbots are created during close collaboration with brands, so any information spread about this fact would be simply interpreted as an advertisement. That’s why the next time you see the word bot in a headline, think about my words and remember: not every bot is a chatbot.

Why is everybody talking about chatbots?
Because brands who use them in business are getting results
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