Meta Platforms Inc's logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration picture
Meta executives are focusing on boosting retention on its new text-based app Threads, after the app lost more than half of its users in the weeks following its launch on 5 July. Reuters

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will release artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots as early as next month, according to reports.

The global tech leader is developing variations of chatbots with different personalities and functions in a bid to improve user retention. Reportedly, the final prototypes will even be able to hold discussions with users at a human level.

In 2021, under the direction of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook was rebranded as Meta, in order to facilitate the company's shift towards the 'Metaverse'.

Zuckerberg's Metaverse, a name for a shared online 3D virtual space that several companies are interested in creating as a sort of future version of the internet, also encompasses social media apps Instagram and Whatsapp.

Since the emergence of artificial intelligence last year, Zuckerberg has expressed a keen interest in incorporating AI technology into his products.

Last month, it was revealed that Meta-owned app Instagram was testing an artificial intelligence large language model (LLM) that will feature multiple personalities.

Mobile app researcher and developer Alessandro Paluzzi tweeted that Instagram was "working on bringing AI Agents (Bots) to your chats for a more fun and engaging experience".

Paluzzi, who developed the WA Tweaker app that enables hidden features on WhatsApp, said Instagram's AI chatbots will have the ability "to answer questions and give advice".

Users will also be able to choose from 30 different personalities that will assist users in "writing messages".

The move represents the industry's rush to incorporate AI into its products as the technology continues to develop at a rapid pace.

The creation of the natural language processing tool Chat GPT in November 2022 thrust artificial technology into the mainstream discourse, causing significant excitement as well as an alarm at the potential for AI to harm the human race.

According to the latest available data, ChatGPT currently has over 100 million users, and the website generates one billion visitors per month. This user and traffic growth was achieved in a record-breaking two-month period (from December 2022 to February 2023).

Microsoft, in direct competition with Meta, has been pushing out the technology to consumers and has pledged to pump billions of dollars into OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.

In February, Google unveiled Bard, a ChatGPT-like conversation robot that is powered by its large language model called LaMDA.

And now, it appears Meta is going one step further – using artificial intelligence technology to improve user retention.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg's Meta launched its long-rumoured Threads app on July 6. Wikimedia Commons

Meta's 2023 second-quarter earnings call on July 26 revealed another $3.7 billion invested into Metaverse development.

The company also reported a profit of $7.8 billion on $32 billion in revenue during the recently ended quarter, as the number of people using Facebook monthly rose to 3.03 billion.

Meta had suffered a rough 2022 amid a souring economic climate, which forced advertisers to cut back on spending, and Apple's data privacy changes, which allowed users to block ad targeting, the pillar of Meta's business.

But like the other big US tech companies, Meta's share price has had a stellar 2023 that Zuckerberg in January said would be the "year of efficiency".

"With two straight quarters of positive revenue growth and the first quarter of double-digit revenue growth since late 2021, Meta's year of efficiency is off to a strong start," said Insider Intelligence analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

"There's a lot to feel good about when it comes to Meta right now," Williamson added.

In its earnings release, the company said that the number of ads on its various applications rose by 34 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter.

On top of boosting engagement, chatbots could collect vast new amounts of data on users' interests, said experts. That could help Meta better target users with more relevant content and adverts. Most of Meta's $117 billion a year in revenue comes from advertising.

Meta has also been investing in generative AI, technology that can create text, images and code. This month, it released a commercial version of a large language model that could power its chatbots, called Llama 2.

Goldman Sachs estimated generative artificial intelligence systems might disrupt the labour market and impact 300 million full-time jobs worldwide.

After scrutinizing occupational tasks data from the US and Europe, Goldman Sachs analysts, in their research report, projected that approximately 300 million job positions worldwide could be vulnerable to automation, provided generative AI delivers on its promised capabilities.

Zuckerberg has described the impact he believes AI could have on the online realm:

"You can imagine lots of ways that AI can help people connect and express themselves in our apps, creative tools that make it easier and more fun to share content, agents that act as assistance, coaches or that can help you interact with businesses and creators and more," the CEO said.

More details on Meta's AI roadmap are expected to be announced at its Connect developer event in September.