Human or bot? That will be the question to ask about your friend lists online. By 2015, about 10 percent of these contacts will be nonhuman, predicts the Gartner Group.
Don’t misread “nonhuman” here. We’re talking about bots. Right now companies employ humans to promote brands through profiles and pages. By mid decade, this will get fully automated.
Like “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2011 and Beyond: IT’s Growing Transparency” explains:
By 2015, efforts to systematize and automate social engagement will result in the rise of social bots — automated software agents that can handle, to varying degrees, interaction with communities of users in a manner personalized to each individual.
This trend may seem harmless on its own, but not when security issues enter the discussion. If one in five users have encountered malware on Facebook already, in half a decade bot friends might unleash more widespread damage.
Today the average user has about 100 or so friends, and that’s supposed to reach 500 in the not-too-distant future. The typical Facebook account could have 50 bots mixed in with real human contacts. That could open a big can of whoop-ass if people don’t learn to screen friend requests.
Certainly, bots could hold great promise for viral marketers, especially with Facebook rejiggering word-of-mouth promotional features just when they’ve built up momentum.
Companies that bot themselves might build more trustworthy brands by avoiding the use of malware and possibly disclosing that to the public.
Bots as profiles might also become a frontier for privacy debate if the automation ever includes the ability to chat with other users as way of gathering demographic data.
Of course, this is all hypothetical because none of this technology has been invented yet, as far as we know.
Cohen, J. (2010) One In Ten Of Your Friends Will Not Be Human By 2015, (Online) All Facebook, accessed 13/11/2010, available at http://www.allfacebook.com/report-one-in-ten-of-your-friends-will-not-be-human-by-2015-2010-12