Why Facebook's M uses texting instead of voice

Facebook may soon introduce you to M, a virtual assistant that is very different from Siri and Cortana and Google Now. For starters, you won't be able to talk with it and it will be able to do things that Siri and the rest cannot do at all.

You'll make requests of M by way of Messenger - that's right, you'll send it a text. If it needs clarification, it will text you back. It may handle your need the same way all the others do: use AI to look it up somewhere. But it also may refer the text to a human assistant, which means that M will be able to do things like argue with your cable company that your rate is too high!

I have no idea what Facebook intends to charge for that level of service, but it is interesting that they chose text instead of voice input. I think it was a smart move as voice requires configuration or perhaps downloading yet another app, which nobody wants to do. Text is also better for more complex interactions, especially if that invisible human has to become involved.

Should Apple and the rest be worried? Well, maybe. If I were Apple or Google and especially if I were Microsoft, I'd make my software M ready so that users could say "Ask M to.." or even just automatically fetch answers from M for comparison. That would help keep keep users in the fiold and could provide valuable competitive information. Of course nothing stops M from doing its own competitive research with questions it gets, so this could all get bogged down in a flurry of recursive questioning!

M is in Beta now in San Francisco - no clue when you and I will see it, but it should be interesting.

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