The Bot Economy Is Growing Even Faster Than the App Economy Did

Apps are so 2015.

A Facebook Inc. logo.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Move over apps, it's time for the bots to shine. 

A new note from Citigroup Inc. highlights just how much faster the bot economy is growing than the app economy did in its early days. According to analyst Mark May, mobile app stores alone generate roughly $40 billion in bookings annually, without even taking into account other revenue from such things as mobile marketing and advertising. A new opportunity is arising, however, as bots become more and more present in many of these platforms. 

"Moves by players like Facebook to increasingly commercialize its Messenger platform and Apple's recent announcement that it will launch an app/bot store specifically for iMessenger with the launch of iOS10 point to a possible momentum shift in the mobile landscape from The App Economy to The Bot Economy," May writes. He adds that "there is significant potential for bots to become an everyday-technology," not unlike the ubiquitous apps on all our phones. 

He also provides two charts that show just how dramatic the growth in this new platform has been. The first compares the growth rate of Apple Inc.'s App Store and the bot platform for Facebook Inc.'s Messenger. From the third to sixth month of operating, both saw substantial increases, but bots have significantly outpaced apps in growth rate.

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Citigroup Inc.

The second looks at the number of developers working the field. In month six, bots already had nearly three times the active developers that apps had in their 14th month. 

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May names three companies that he's keeping a close eye on in this space. Facebook, Apple, and Alphabet Inc. have all benefited from the rise of apps, and now they are sitting at the forefront of this shift. The one for which he sees the clearest benefit is Facebook, which has repeatedly expressed a commitment to making bots a bigger part of its platform, and is "in a good position to benefit from the potential growth of 'The Bot Economy.'"