Looking for the best open-source chatbots? In this blog, you will find top 8 chatbots with their defining features and where to access them. Dig in!
“Open Source” is one of those transcendental phrases that would’ve never been possible without the internet.
Kind of like the statement, “Nyan Cat is a cultural revolution”.
Open-source software has given us some real jewels over the years.
Mozilla Firefox, Linux, WordPress, VLC, Apache, LaTex and Ubuntu are just some of the few standouts.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, Chatbots have been one of the most prominent technological revolutions in recent past.
And indeed, Chatbots have seen an influx of open source frameworks.
Providers of the solutions range from giant companies like Microsoft to lonesome GitHub heroes.
So in this article, we’re going to talk about
A. What are open source chatbots,
B. What are some of the best open source chatbot platforms in 2021, and
C. What makes them different from non-open-source options on the market.
What are open source chatbots
Chatbots are defined as “a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.”
You’ve undoubtedly seen or interacted with many of these computer programs in your life.
Maybe you’ve ordered pizza using a Chatbot. Or used one to help you buy makeup.
Maybe you’ve even had a therapy session with one.
There’s a chatbot for almost every use case imaginable, and most are built one of two ways.
- By using state-of-the-art platforms or
- Independently built by the companies that use them.
So Nykaa, one of the largest e-commerce companies in India uses a customer support chatbot to serve its customer in a better, more efficient way.
There is however a third way that flies under the radar, and that is open-source chatbots.
Open source bots are a lot like modern web applications. They live on the interweb, use databases and API’s to send and receive messages, read and write files, and perform regular tasks.
Open source bots usually consist of a few core components:
- A web server, in most cases one that is available on the public internet
- The Bot Builder SDK and Tool that provides an interface for developing bots
- An intelligent algorithm Service
- Storage Service
What are some of the best open source chatbot platforms in 2021
1. Microsoft Bot Framework.
Possibly one of the most used tools in the business, Microsoft’s Bot Framework has everything you need.
In fact, over 41% of businesses in Mindbowser’s study preferred MBF to industry alternatives.
SMS, Skype, Slack, Email, Office 365, Twitter, Telegram are just some of the many platforms MBF covers.
The framework consists of two major components, their Bot Builder SDK (that is open-source access on Github), and their NLU system called ‘LUIS’.
The Bot Builder SDK supports .NET and Node.js. While with an automatic translation feature, LUIS provides support for over 30 languages.
Because of Microsoft’s vast array of resources, you can automate almost any type of conversation.
You can use LUIS for natural language understanding, Cortana for voicebot, and the Bing APIs for search.
MBF is a popular tool for a reason. It has various samples and templates that help devs build better bots, more quickly. It’s also ideal for an omnichannel approach for businesses.
2. Rasa Stack
Rasa Stack is a platform that has seen some incredible growth.
Only 2 years old, Rasa has over 300,000+ downloads. That’s almost a download every minute.
The Rasa Stack is a set of open source machine learning tools. Developers can use these tools to create chatbots and assistants.
Rasa Stack has two major components that are independent of each other; a ‘core’ and ‘NLU’.
It’s fairly simple.
The NLU understands a users message based on predefined intent. The ML powered core decides what happens next.
Rasa is an independent service i.e. all the data fed or received doesn’t need to run through a third-party API. You can deploy it on-prem or in a private cloud.
It’s one of the only production-ready platforms delivering flexible and natural conversations that scale.
Check Rasa Stack out here.
It sells itself as the WordPress of Chatbots i.e. an open-source bot building platform.
It’s built using a modular blueprint. You can snap pieces off and add new bits on an existing code frame.
Botpress runs a three-stage installation process. Developers start building the bot, then deploy it to their preferred platform and hand-off access so that it can be managed.
Botpress built using a developer-friendly environment, has an intuitive dashboard, and is powered by flexible technology. It also comes with several pre-installed components.
- An NLU Engine
- An administration dashboard
- A visual flow editor
- A chat emulator/debugger
- Support for multiple messaging channels
As is with Rasa, BotPress runs on-prem, so you have full control over the data that comes in and out.
Check out BotPress here.
Ana prides itself on being the World’s First Open-Source ChatBot Framework.
Free for personal and commercial use, Ana can knock precious days off your chatbot development.
Ana comes with a suite of inbuilt services, like; the Ana Studio, Server, Simulator and SDK. You can use the studio to create and edit text, buttons and input fields visually.
The simulator allows you to control your bot experience with features like memory display.
Servers allow you to distribute your bot to platforms without having to worry about scalability.
Ana’s SDK’s ensure that you can integrate Ana into your app in a matter of minutes.
OpenDialog is one of the most popular choices among open-source chatbot frameworks. The full-equipped toolkit lets you design, build and deploy a chatbot effortlessly.
GreenShoot Labs built the framework in 2018 with a refreshing user-first UI that makes development a breeze. It packs an excellent conversation engine and flexibility in a convenient format that isn’t daunting for first-time users.
OpenDialog flaunts the ability to perform real-time STT processes while still using relatively low memory. It can work as a server unit as well as deliver the N-best/word graph output.
The USP of this framework allows you to build full-fledged conversational agents without needing to have any coding experience.
You can access OpenDialog’s source code from GitHub.
Tock is yet another excellent choice for open-source chatbot development frameworks with native support for natural language processing. It requires no third-party APIs and can function independently. However, integration is no issue either, considering how easy it is for the user to choose which components to embed into the conversational agent.
Tock’s source code is available on GitHub under the Apache License, version 2.0.
DeepPavlov is another popular open-source chatbot development framework built on TensorFlow, Keras and PyTorch that gives developers flexible tools to build powerful conversational agents that are multi-skilled assistants.
The framework is compatible with state of the art deep learning models like BERT to process NER, Q&A and other complex NLP tasks.
One of the critical features of DeepPavlov is how easily deployable it is. They’re hosted in containers on Nvidia NGC and Docker Hub. DeepPavlov claims speedups of up to 20x in NLP applications.
Here’s DeepPavlov’s source code on GitHub.
Developers can use this open-source chatbot development framework to build personal or commercial conversational agents. It was acquired by Facebook in 2015. Wit.ai uses a user-friendly SDK that can build open-source chatbots which easily integrate with messaging services, especially chatbot for Facebook messenger.
The NLP engine of Wit.ai outclasses that of its competitors like IBM, Microsoft and Amazon.
Wit.ai is arguably one of the most comprehensive open-source chatbot development frameworks today. Its SDK is available in languages like Python, NodeJS and iOS, making it ideal for a wide range of developers. Wit.ai easily integrates into websites, apps, Facebook Messenger, Slack, wearable tech and automation.
Wit.ai’s source code can be found on GitHub.
What are the key features of open-source chatbots?
Open source chatbot development frameworks allow anyone with some coding know-how to build themselves an NLP powered chatbot for their website. Let’s take a look at the features open-source chatbots can offer so you can choose whether open sourcing your chatbot is the right way to go.
Open source chatbots allow you to customise each component that goes into your conversational agent. You can choose everything right, from what message templates you want to use to the natural language processing engines and the APIs to integrate into your chatbot. Flexibility is one of the main reasons people consider building an open-source chatbot for their business.
2. 24/7 availability
You can build your chatbot to be available online 24/7 on various messaging platforms at the same time. Round-the-clock availability and no downtime can help supplement your customer support operations and help your support agents be more efficient. The chatbot itself can answer most queries. The bot is the first point of contact for users; any tickets that are not resolvable by the bot are transferred to human handlers.
3. Choice of Natural Language Processing engine
When building a customised chatbot for your website, choosing the right natural language processing engine is essential. With open-source chatbots, you’re free to choose the NLP engine of your choice, making it excellent for those who would like to see which ones work the best for them.
4. Data privacy
As a business using data-driven technologies on your website, it’s in your interest to use secure services that safeguard user data and have no loopholes that could put your users’ data at risk of being compromised. With open-source chatbots, you have complete control over how your data is processed and used. This helps you let the chatbot help your customers while you have the peace of mind that your user data is in safe hands.
What makes them different from non-open-source options on the market?
One of the big downsides of any open-source technology is the steep learning curve.
For the average user, Ubuntu simply isn’t as easy, intuitive or user-friendly as Windows.
This isn’t surprising. Open-source communities tend to be developer-heavy, without a focus on design.
This means non-dev users often struggle with open-source tech. Open-source tech also doesn’t come with too much support. So if you have a problem, chances are you’ll have to fend for yourself with only some documentation.
Open source software is also rarely free. While you may not have to pay for the standalone service, there are various costs that you’ll have to take on.
Servers, training, hardware and implementation costs all add up if you don’t account for them.
However, don’t let this deter you.
A lot of legitimate solutions from established companies also suffer from varying degrees of the same problems.
If you would like easier/cheaper/more helpful tools to help you build chatbots, there are a lot of options available.
Companies often allow you to build chatbots for free. You can get started on building a chatbot just like the one below here.
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