So this is what @TayAndYou was supposed to be about: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has used his keynote at the Build conference to launch an open source chatbot framework.
Instead of setting the buzz before the big reveal, Microsoft's shot at a public Twitter-bot was derailed when 4chan users worked out how to game “Tay”, turning it into a racist Nazi-sympathising troll.
However, with the code ready to go and the BotFramework website registered, CEO Satya Nadella went ahead and unveiled the framework.
The three-part framework has connectors, SDKs, and has a directory of published bots on the “coming soon” list.
The connectors let DIY bots respond to Skype, Slack, text messages, Office 365 e-mail, GroupMe and Telegram. Connectors handle message routing, language translation, and user state management, and there's also a connector providing embeddable Web chat control.
For those that want to create a bot for a not-yet-supported channel, there's also a direct line API.
The SDK, on Github, includes libraries, samples, and tools, and Redmond says it will eventually include a directory of bots built using the software.
Developers who want to avoid replicating @TayAndYou can try their hand running up bots in either C# or Node.js.
To get a bot running, developers expose a compatible REST API on the Internet, letting Bot Connector forward user messages to their custom and returning the bot's response.
Explaining its decision to open up the BotBuilder framework, Microsoft says – without any trace of irony – that “at this point few developers have the expertise and tools needed to create new conversational experiences or enable existing applications and services with a conversational interface their users can enjoy”.
There's also a tool called QnA Maker that lets developers “seed” their bots with questions and answers, and can extract content from pages with explicit questions and answers, such as FAQs. ®