Bots. Chatbots. Robots. You might have noticed these terms and others like them increasingly pop across your screen. While they each represent technological advances, it’s important to know the meaning of each and how they differ to ensure you remain informed on how they can impact you.
First, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. Bots are not robots and they don’t symbolize the end of marketing or sales as we know it. The definitions of each of these terms helps us understand why.
What is a bot?
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a bot is "a computer program that performs automatic repetitive tasks." To expand on this definition, bots also act as the primary tool for automating interactions and engagement with website content on a large scale.
Bots on the internet is not a new concept. Search engines like Google extensively use bots, often known as web crawlers, to analyze content and index the web. The use of a bot in their case allows sites to be catalogued much faster and more scalably than humans could accomplish alone.
Like all technology, bots can certainly be misused. We see examples of this in internet attacks, spammy social media accounts, and the arena of online shopping reselling. These "botnets" tend to give bots a bad name and inspire negative, malicious connotations.
When thinking about bots, however, it's important to maintain perspective. Bots are a software that are becoming easier to implement. They can serve a variety of purposes and what they ultimately accomplish is dependent on the humans that control them.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a type of bot designed to interact with humans conversationally, based on its programming. They automate the process of interacting with your website vistors and social media followers in an attempt to create the best user experience. Ideally, this helps your site maintain the presence of a helping hand, even when you or your team can't respond.
But it's exactly this human-like quality of chatbots that makes them uncanny. It gives rise to notions of "creepy chatbots" and makes the differentiation between bots, chatbots, and robots even more important.
What is a robot?
The definition of a robot is diverse. A quick look-up reveals entries such as:
- a device that automatically performs complicated, often repetitive tasks (as in an industrial assembly line) ex: the use of robots in car manufacturing
- a machine that resembles a living creature in being capable of moving independently (as by walking or rolling on wheels) and performing complex actions (such as grasping and moving objects)
- often : such a machine built to resemble a human being or animal in appearance and behavior