Facebook is trying to make Messenger bots more active but in a reactive way.
On Monday Facebook announced that it’s restricting how long Messenger bots have to respond to someone before they’re muzzled but is relaxing its rule forbidding promotional messages. Some Messenger bots will be able to sidestep the time limit with the introduction of subscription-based messaging.
A new 24-hour window is the pillar of these changes. Now a Messenger bot can, with certain exceptions, only message someone within 24 hours of that person interacting with the bot. This appears to be Facebook’s way of pressuring companies to make their bots more responsive. In what appears to be a carrot to the 24-hour window’s stick, Messenger bots can now send promotional messages to people, like “Hey, check out this sale” or “Learn more about our newest product,” but only within the 24-hour window.
But the 24-hour window isn’t fully sealed. A bot will be able to send one follow-up message after the 24-hour window — which resets each time a person interacts with a given Messenger bot — and it will still be able to send what Facebook refers to as “template” messages, like sales receipts and flight notifications, after the 24-hour window expires and even if the follow-up message is sent.
Not all bots will be held to the 24-hour window. Messenger bots that send people news, let them manage productivity tasks or track their personal information like their health or financial fitness are the only types of bots that will able to send messages on a regular basis outside of the 24-hour window to people who subscribe to them.
People will first have to sign up for these subscriptions by messaging the bot, which is required to tell a person how often it will send those messages and what type of content they’ll contain. Subscription-based bots will still be able to send normal messages to someone if that person responds to a message, but when that happens, the bot will be held to the 24-hour restriction for the non-subscription messages. Unlike the non-subscription messages, subscription messages can not be promotional.
Messenger bot makers have until November 14 to make sure their bots comply with Facebook’s new rules and until February 13, 2017, to apply for subscription-based messaging access.