Microsoft Cancels the Teams Who Bot

Who Bot Was One of the Original Teams Bots

Message center notification MC687849 (7 November 2023) is a terse announcement of the demise of the Teams Who bot, an app in the Teams app store. This is a pity. I rather liked the Who bot and even included it as an example app in an article about Teams setup policies. Oh well.

The Who bot app scored a surprising 3.2 overall rating
Figure 1: The Who bot app scored a surprising 3.2 overall rating

Microsoft created the Who bot in the early days of Teams development as a sample to demonstrate how to create a Teams bot. The purpose of the app is to help users find information about others in the organization based on the information stored in Entra ID and the Graph. Users could chat with the bot to ask questions like who in the organization might know about a certain topic. Figure 2 shows a query from January 2018 when I asked “who works for me?” It’s the kind of helpful information that befuddled managers like to receive.

The Who bot responds to a chat query
Figure 2: The Who bot responds to a chat query

As you can see, the Who bot used chats to interact with users. In today’s Microsoft 365, the role of AI-based helpful communication is assigned to Microsoft 365 Copilot or rather, the implementation of Copilot within Teams. Microsoft says that they are working to improve the functionality delivered in the Who bot and will deliver a better user experience within Microsoft 365 Copilot sometime in the future.

Knowing What’s Happening

The deprecation is due in mid-December 2023 but already the Who bot knows about its fate. I fired the bot up on November 9 and was prompted for consent to perform searches (a refinement from the original version). After giving consent, the response was a bunch of messages heralding the depreciation. And although the Who bot reassured me that it was ready to start chatting (Figure 3), no further interaction was possible.

The Who bot knows too much about what’s going to happen to it
Figure 3: The Who bot knows too much about what’s going to happen to it

Indeed, some folks in the Microsoft Technical Community noticed that the Who bot was declining in late October. Microsoft might have been trying to deprecate the bot on the quiet, but were forced to come clean when people noticed! I don’t know if this is the case, but perhaps low usage data convinced Microsoft that they could remove the Who bot without causing any problems for users.

No Way Back

In any case, there’s no way back for the Who bot. Microsoft’s attention is fully focused on adding Copilots to every piece of software that it can, no matter if the software benefits from receiving a splash of artificial intelligence.

The bad thing is that the Who bot was a free app available to all 320 million Teams users. The new route that Microsoft has taken will restrict access to whatever replacement functionality they build to people with Copilot licenses. Right now, that’s a large investment (minimum of $108,000 for 300 users for a year) that limits exposure to organizations that can afford to pay for licenses. Losing the Who bot isn’t a big deal because it was really only ever a demo app, but it’s always sad when functionality disappears behind a licensing barrier. Microsoft tends to go down that path too often these days.

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