That's right, Telegram is giving away 1 million dollars; as I hold my pinky to the corner of my mouth.

Telegram bots are third-party applications that run inside Telegram. Users can interact with bots by sending them messages, commands and inline requests. You control your bots using HTTPS requests to our bot API.

At the core, Telegram Bots are special accounts that do not require an additional phone number to set up. Users can interact with bots in two ways:

Telegram Botfather
IMAGE SOURCE: Telegram

Send messages and commands to bots by opening a chat with them or by adding them to groups. This is useful for chat bots or news bots like the official TechCrunch and Forbes bots.

Send requests directly from the input field by typing the bot's @username and a query. This allows sending content from inline bots directly into any chat, group or channel.

Messages, commands and requests sent by users are passed to the software running on your servers. Our intermediary server handles all encryption and communication with the Telegram API for you. You communicate with this server via a simple HTTPS-interface that offers a simplified version of the Telegram API. We call that interface our Bot API.

TechCrunch reported that the Telegram bot prize will not go to one mega-useful bot but will rather be distributed as a series of grants, starting at $25,000, to the bot debs whose wares impress, according to details in a Telegram blog post outlining the competition.

It adds that the prize money will be distributed “in several batches” throughout the year, with the final deadline being December 31.

And Telegram’s criteria for building great bots? Basically, be fast and be useful.

Which, at this nascent stage of the bot hypelifecycle, is already looking like a challenge. Early reviews of Facebook bots, for example, have been far from complimentary.

“Frustrating, disappointing and far less efficient than visiting the company website” was the verdict of TC’s own Sarah Perez on testing out the bots Facebook featured in its f8 presentation where it launched its big bot push. And she’s not the only critic, either.

The fast-forming suspicion, then, is that a chatty messaging interface is merely the latest disguise to cloak the unwelcome, gelatinous and indubitably familiar visage of spam spam spam.

And especially sticky spam, given how apparently difficult it can be to extricate yourself from a prior bot embrace. Invite bots into your messaging life with caution, then.

Given the risk of users being switched off bots double quick — i.e. if they perceive that inviting a robot interlocutor over their messaging threshold will merely result in a deluge of annoying upsell — little wonder Telegram is attempting to steer the conversation in a more consumer friendly direction.

“SOME AREAS YOU MAY WANT TO FOCUS ON: INTEGRATIONS, TOOLS FOR BOT BUILDERS, AI STUFF, AND NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING, ALTHOUGH YOUR BOT MAY DO SOMETHING ALTOGETHER DIFFERENT. SURPRISE US!”

Unsurprisingly, Telegram is also seeking to encourage developers to build bots that feel like they are native to its platform. So although the competition does extend to ported bots, Telegram stresses developers should “make sure it really feels at home in Telegram”.

“WE HAVE MANY NIFTY INTERFACE OPTIONS THAT AREN’T AVAILABLE ELSEWHERE AND MAKE USING TELEGRAM BOTS A BREEZE”

Some examples of existing Telegram bots include a bot that lets you search for related stickers based on a particular emoji; a bot that lets you search for and share YouTube videos without having to leave a messaging thread; and a bot that lets you search for classical music by keyword, and share a music file to your conversation. These three bots were built by Telegram as examples of the sorts of things third party developers can do with its bot platform.

The free-to-use messaging app is not taking any revenue at this point, and is reported to be funded by the personal wealth of millionaire founder and Russian-born entrepreneur Pavel Durov — a little more of which is now evidently going towards incentivizing developers to build bots.

When Durov launched the messaging app in fall 2013 he told TechCrunch his intention was for the app to remain non-profit to avoid commercial and legal pressure. That ethos may allow bots on Telegram to be a little less nakedly commercial vs bots on other platforms, at least initially. Albeit it remains to be seen what developers will be encouraged to build for Telegram.

Back in February, Telegram announced it had passed the 100M monthly active users mark. Earlier this month, announcing the first major update to its bot platform since launch, Durov told TechCrunch more than a fifth of monthly users now view content generated by bots — so that’s some 20 million Telegram users regularly engaging with robots.

Asked how many bots there are on the Telegram platform now, Durov could not provide a figure — saying only that there are “countless” because it’s an open platform and anyone can launch one. But he did add that “most of them don’t have many users”.

"We’ve been studying what developers were doing on our platform since its launch. So we’ve gathered some knowledge about what kinds of bots are useful and what kind of bots are not. Now we want to share this knowledge with the ecosystem through BotPrizes and encourage the development of great bots with grants and larger exposure,” he told TechCrunch.

“I’d like to see more integrations with services. For example, I’d use a bot that would forward me emails from my gmail account (and allow me to reply to them from Telegram),” he adds. “Or a bot from my bank, that would send me updates from my bank account and allow to quickly check balance. In short, useful stuff.”

Durov said popular bots on Telegram at this nascent stage are bots that allow you to find/create other bots, naming the likes of @storebot and @chatfuelbot. So at least some of the early interest in bots is evidently being fueled by developers thinking about creating their own bots.

But he added that inline bots such as @gif, @bing and @youtube are “predictably popular” too.

How to submit

If you think you've made a bot that fits the description above, go ahead and drop us a line at BotSupport. Don‘t forget to include your bot’s username and the tag #BotPrize – this way we'll be able to find your bot.

We‘ll be giving out the prizes in several batches throughout 2016, so the final deadline is December, 31. But there’s no reason to wait that long, send them to us as soon as they're ready.