A message that says one can now access Wikipedia via WhatsApp has been doing the rounds recently. The message, which lists simple steps to enable the facility, has left some users delighted and others in doubt.
Industry insiders, who spoke to City Express, say that this is a WhatsApp-Wikipedia bot. A bot is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are simple and repetitive. The latest fad is the Wikipedia bot that has been delivering Wiki search results for any terminology or query, right on your phone.
Though the WhatsApp bots are fairly more popular than the rest, purely because of a massive user-base, other messenger apps like Telegram and Viber have also come up with tailor-made bots. For instance, some deliver jokes while others send poems. Some bots also come in the form of stand-alone apps. A quick Google search throws up simple instructions of how to even make your own bot. Created with the help of Artificial Intelligence algorithms, Forbes has heralded bots as the “new-age Chatbot revolution”.
How it works
The WhatsApp Wikipedia bot is fairly easy to use. A text with instructions on how to activate the service along with the number is being circulated in the messaging app. The number, 1-604-449-1532, has to be added to a group to start the service.
It is unclear why it cannot be used as a standalone chatbot, like in other messaging apps (like Telegram). Now, post in the group with the following format — wiki <space> query. Wikipedia has not confirmed its association with the service. However, a few news reports claim that it was started by a group of techies from India.
Kiruba Shankar, CEO of Business Blogging, and a social media consultant, says bots have been around for a very long time. “A search bot goes through the same process as one would do to manually search for something via Google. The chatbot integrates with WhatsApp’s API, the host website and fetches information from Wikipedia,” says Shankar.
“The WhatsApp bot is a programme which stays within the messenger app, understands the command and fetches the desired result,” he adds.
Just like any other programme, the security concerns are as real as it can get. Although the Wikipedia bot, based primarily on a search engine prototype, might not pose a major security issue, the rest can. If a banking bot seeks your banking ID and password, it spells trouble
The best way to know about the risk is to go to online forums and read reviews. Use bots only from trusted sources
Though WhatsApp bot is new, there are a few Twitter handles like @WhatsAppBetaBot that give info on the programmes they develop