Here’s how people are using WhatsApp as a “search engine”

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WhatsApp is a great example of what users want in a mobile app. It’s easy to use, has a very clear value proposition as an instant message platform, is loaded with features for multimedia and group communication, and for 900 million users it has become one of the most convenient ways to communicate in a cheap, fast and effective way.

There are some people however, who have decided to look beyond all this and add more functionality to WhatsApp. A group from India created a WhatsApp bot which allows its users to access certain services ordinarily accessible on the internet only and not through WhatsApp.

Through the bot users can search for content on Wikipedia, access some news articles and even engage in simple mobile quizzes. To access the bot users need to save any one of a list of specific phone numbers and add this number to a new or existing WhatsApp group.

Wiki-WhatsApp-botAfter that services are accessed by typing specific commands as ordinary messages on group chat. For example Wikipedia searches can be prompted by typing Wiki followed by the search item, and sports news is available by typing certain reference numbers.

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You can get a more detailed account on how to use the bot’s features in this article.

The good, the bad, the ugly

There’s a lot to be excited about with this service. Users are being offered additional access to the internet through an Instant Messaging platform.

Features like Wikipedia searches will definitely amuse members of any group and access to information through news updates feels like a bonus for anyone accustomed to exiting WhatsApp and clicking on a web browser or a second and third app.

The real victory is in minimising broadband use, something that Zimbabweans who use WhatsApp bundles to avoid the high cost of data will immediately appreciate. The bot becomes one workaround placed in another and WhatsApp becomes more than what it is.

However, there’s more to this bot. One important thing to note is how this is one good example of spam bots. These are tools created for mass distribution of news and information which is inherently spam.

Users of public platforms and chatrooms and groups will have likely encountered the odd, unidentified member who regularly posts information that has little to no relevance to the group.

Since the WhatsApp bot was designed in India some of the news and information is for the Indian market, but it doesn’t end there. Your group will receive a deluge of information that will probably seem incoherent, something that ll spam is.

The ugly side to this is that WhatsApp bots are also regular tools for phishing, something that will expose users to additional cyber risks which are definitely not worth the free Wikipedia or Ballon d’Or updates.

If you choose to use and keep the WhatsApp bot even after experiencing some challenges with it like having to change the number after it stops working just remember there’s always a price attached to something free.

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