Imagining a Multi-Platform Bot Development Framework
Dexter, the Betaworks incubated self-service integration platform, recently shifted its focus to become a bot development platform and announced a new round of funding. When reading the news a few weeks ago, it made me think about the viability of cross-platforms bot development technologies as a market for startups.
In the past, I’ve written extensively about the challenges that the bot market poses for startups. A market in which the incumbent messaging platforms control not only the runtime but the distribution and monetization channles is certainly a difficult environment for startups to blossom. Having said that, the idea of a robust cross-platform bot development framework is certainly an interesting one.
When we talk about cross-platform software development frameworks, we automatically go back to the mobile space. After its acquisition by Microsoft, Xamarin resulted the big winner in the mobile cross-platform development space in which technologies like Reach Native also managed to develop an impressive level of traction. However, with some of those exceptions, most of the mobile cross-platform stacks failed to developed into meaninful companies. From that perspective,there are a few lessons that might be applicable to the bot market.
The bot space presents some very tangible differences-challenges with the cross-platform mobile market that are relevant that should be considered when evaluating the viability of a cross-platform bot development stack. For starters, the number of messaging runtime is a multiples higher compared to the number of mobile OS plaforms. That difference translates into a richer and larger number of distribution channels, management tools and monetization models that need to be included in bot solutions which can result on a nightmare for developers. A cross-platform bot development framework, that alliviates these challenges could certainly be welcomed in the market.
Like the previous example, there are a few ideas that might work in a bot development platform. Let’s explore a few:
Some Ideas for a Cross-Platform Bot Development Framework
— Shared Business Logic — Different UI:One of the challenges in the bot market is the UI-UX differences between the different messaging platforms. Taking a page out of Xamarin’s book, a model that allow developers to tailor the user experience to the different bot platforms while reusing the business logic might be a clever approach to tackle this challenge.
— Support for Different Programming Languages: Supporting different programming languages for implementing cross-platform bot solutions could be a strategy to build a strong developer community. Developing a multi-language platform for bots is exponentially easier compared to the mobile space.
— Support for Different NLP Stacks: Imagine that you are developing a bot and you are able to choose between different natural language processing(NLP) stacks such as Watson, Wit.ai, Microsoft Cognitive Services or Google NLP. That model will offer developers the flexibility to leverage the top NLP stacks on the market into their bot solution instead of be tied to a single one.
— Cross-Platform Analytics and Management: Providing a uniform platform and tools to track analytics across the different bot runtimes as wel as consolidating the management experience can also be an interesting idea for a cross-platform bot development framework.