The Rosetta Stone of chatbot APIs: Upstart touts software bridge

If you want to build code for lots of platforms, don't shoot the

Taking aim at the balkanized bot ecosystem,, a Y Combinator-backed startup, on Wednesday began offering private beta access to its bot platform.

The 12-person company, based in Austin, Texas, aims to provide a single system for managing bot-based communication across multiple messaging services. Its bot syndication tool can take a chatbot designed for one of its supported services and make it available to users of other supported services.

"Our vision is for bots that work everywhere," said Tom Hadfield, CEO of, in a phone interview with The Register. "We believe all bots should work on all messaging platforms. The messaging platforms as they exist today are walled gardens. But if you look back through human history ... communication systems have trended toward interoperability."

Presently, works with HipChat, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Slack, but the company plans to add support for Cisco Spark, Salesforce Chatter, and other messaging platforms – both consumer and enterprise – in the months ahead. The firm says it has signed up 80 bots for its private beta, with companies such as HubSpot, Kayak, Lucidchart, Nuzzle, and Poncho.

Bots – the chatting variety, as opposed to web crawlers and malicious automations – have attracted the attention of tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft because text-based interaction has come back into vogue.

Much of this interaction is happening through mobile messaging apps. And thanks to advances in speech recognition and natural language parsing, it has become relatively easy to convert spoken or typed phrases into the structured data necessary to interact with software.

For businesses, this means commerce can flow not only through website storefronts but through app-based conversational interaction with customers. Bots offer an opportunity to automate such revenue.

Bots also offer an alternative way to interact with enterprise applications, which (in the desktop world at least) have a reputation for clumsy interfaces and burdensome workflows.

"The reason we've decided to focus on the enterprise bot market is enterprise bots have higher rates of engagement and retention," explained Hadfield. "They offer real utility to employees. The messaging interface has become the quickest and easiest way to engage with enterprise software."

Hadfield says that enterprise chat apps don't rely on natural language processing as much as consumer chat apps because the focus isn't engagement. Employees tend to use slash commands to fetch sales figures or the status of customer support tickets.

"The messaging interface is becoming the operating system for the enterprise," Hadfield claimed, recalling Neal Stephenson's 1999 essay on software and interfaces, In the Beginning ... Was the Command Line.

For developers, cross-platform compatibility has obvious appeal: Creating a single bot and syndicating it with one click requires far less work than building and maintaining bots for dozens of different services.

Cross-platform development systems tend to be limiting because they typically support features common to their set of supported operating systems while ignoring features unique to a particular operating system. But Hadfield claims that among enterprise bot platforms, there's fairly broad feature parity. "The UI variations [among the platforms] are relatively minor," he said. "Almost every UI element on enterprise messaging platforms maps reasonably well."

There are edge cases, Hadfield acknowledges, pointing to Slack interactive messages as a feature that doesn't have a direct analog on other platforms. "Part of what we spent the year doing is finding ways to present those rare UI elements on other platforms that don't support them," he explained.

Bot developers interested in can apply for access through the company website. The service is free during private beta and when it launches next year, there will be paid premium services. The company is also planning to support consumer bot platforms like Facebook, Kik, and Telegram at a later date. ®

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • Minimal, systemd-free Alpine Linux releases version 3.16
    A widespread distro that many of its users don't even know they have

    Version 3.16.0 of Alpine Linux is out – one of the most significant of the many lightweight distros.

    Version 3.16.0 is worth a look, especially if you want to broaden your skills.

    Alpine is interesting because it's not just another me-too distro. It bucks a lot of the trends in modern Linux, and while it's not the easiest to set up, it's a great deal easier to get it working than it was a few releases ago.

    Continue reading
  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Slack-for-engineers Mattermost on open source and data sovereignty
    Control and access are becoming a hot button for orgs

    Interview "It's our data, it's our intellectual property. Being able to migrate it out those systems is near impossible... It was a real frustration for us."

    These were the words of communication and collaboration platform Mattermost's founder and CTO, Corey Hulen, speaking to The Register about open source, sovereignty and audio bridges.

    "Some of the history of Mattermost is exactly that problem," says Hulen of the issue of closed source software. "We were using proprietary tools – we were not a collaboration platform before, we were a games company before – [and] we were extremely frustrated because we couldn't get our intellectual property out of those systems..."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022