Further experiments, writing a Serverless Telegram Chat Bot

In my last article I wrote about how I wrote Telegram Chat for tracking co-working spends. I wrote a chatbot using Java, hosted it on my Raspberry PI 3. Yes, it’s serving its needs, we fully rely on it. However, since this chatbot was written as an experiment, I wanted to proceed with research and investigate how real chatbots are written.

Why Raspberry PI 3 is not the the best place for hosting a Chat Bot

Since Telegram Chat Bot can use Long-Polling model, we don’t care about a dedicated IP address or DNS record, the only thing we need is the internet connection. So yes, Raspberry PI device is a computer, we can run our program there, so hosting a Telegram Chat with Long-Polling model is an option. However, what if we are writing a Chat Bot with hundreds or thousands of requests/second? Obviously, Long-Polling model could become a bottleneck since it allows to run a single application in a single Raspberry PI which means we can’t spread the load across multiple devices, which means you can’t scale the whole construction horizontally, only vertically, by adding more CPU/RAM power.

Long story short, if we want to have a scalable Chat Bot in Telegram, we have to get rid of the long-polling model.

Understanding Web Hooks

If we refuse long-polling, then what should be used instead? According to Telegram documentation, there’s a setWebhook API, which allows you to receive requests to a given URL:

Use this method to specify a URL and receive incoming updates via an outgoing webhook. Whenever there is an update for the bot, we will send an HTTPS POST request to the specified URL, containing a JSON-serialized Update. In case of an unsuccessful request, we will give up after a reasonable amount of attempts. Returns True on success.

If you'd like to make sure that the Webhook request comes from Telegram, we recommend using a secret path in the URL, e.g. https://www.example.com/<token>. Since nobody else knows your bot‘s token, you can be pretty sure it’s us.

You have to instruct Telegram to send a request to a specified URL every time someone interacts with your bot. In order to do that, you have to send a POST request with the following signature:

curl --request POST --url https://api.telegram.org/bot${bot_token}/setWebhook --header 'content-type: application/json' --data '{"url": "https://yourdomain.com/api"}'

After you do that, you will now start receiving POST requests to https://yourdomain.com/api with a JSON-serialized Update object:

        "text":"Hello World!"

Good, so practically speaking, instead of long-polling, we can redirect all incoming user messages to some API, hosted on the internet. Now, we can write a fully-managed backend and scale it horizontally, have a load balancer, add enough instances and live without problems.

Do we really need a backend for a Chat Bot?

I wanted to move my ChatBot to use WebHooks and scale it if needed, so I started thinking about possible options. Currently, we don’t use the Chatbot heavily, we have up to 30 spend units per month, which is nothing.

One of the simplest options for me was to write an API and instruct ChatBot to use it. I could host it on AWS or DigitalOcean, or on any other CloudProvider. I didn’t like this approach since I would have to spend 10-20 for running cloud instance.

Another option was to use the Serverless approach, write a Lambda function and host it in AWS. Keeping in mind that AWS has a free tier, which includes 1 million requests per month, and 400,000 GB-seconds of compute time on a monthly basis, I decided to stick to it.

PS - Check out my article about things I learned from using AWS Lambda, which includes a section about free tier and pricing.

What AWS services do I need?

Before writing Lambda function, we need to figure out what AWS components do we need for our Chat Bot.

First of all, we need AWS Lambda. I think I will choose Python as a programming language.

Secondly, we want a dedicated address to instruct Telegram to send, so we need an API Gateway. Gateway will receive a request from Telegram and invoke Lambda to process the message. Lambda will send a request to Telegram in order to send a response to a user.

Finally, we want a database for storing our users, spends, and relationships. I decided to stick to AWS DynamoDB since you can specify read and write capacity and pay for it. Since I don’t have a lot of traffic I can specify set read and write concurrency level to 1 and pay 0.8 dollars per month.

Serverless framework

Serverless is a default option for AWS Lambda, so I stuck to it. I will be using Python as a programming language.

Before we start, you need to make sure you have:

Step 1: Create your bot

The process of creating a Chatbot is super easy:

After you finish the process, you will get a message:

Done! Congratulations on your new bot. You will find it at t.me/iursultestbot. You can now add a description, about section and profile picture for your bot, see /help for a list of commands. By the way, when you've finished creating your cool bot, ping our Bot Support if you want a better username for it. Just make sure the bot is fully operational before you do this.

Use this token to access the HTTP API:

For a description of the Bot API, see this page: https://core.telegram.org/bots/api

Step 2: Install Serverless

The first thing you need to do is install the serverless framework:

npm install -g serverless

Step 3: Create a project

Once you install it, go to your projects folder and execute:

serverless create --template aws-python3 --path iursultestbot

It will create the following structure:

├── handler.py
└── serverless.yml

serverless.yml contains the following structure:

service: iursultestbot

  name: aws
  runtime: python3.6

    handler: handler.hello

Default handler.py has following code:

import json

def hello(event, context):
    body = {
        "message": "Go Serverless v1.0! Your function executed successfully!",
        "input": event

    response = {
        "statusCode": 200,
        "body": json.dumps(body)

    return response

    # Use this code if you don't use the http event with the LAMBDA-PROXY
    # integration
    return {
        "message": "Go Serverless v1.0! Your function executed successfully!",
        "event": event

Step 4: Add API Gateway

The next thing you need to do is to expose your API to the external world, so everyone can call your bot. In order to do that, modify serverless.yml and add API Gateway integration:

service: iursultestbot

  name: aws
  runtime: python3.6

    handler: handler.hello
      - http:
          path: webhook
          method: post
          cors: true

What was changed? We added http event:

      - http:
          path: webhook
          method: post
          cors: true

Step 5: Setup AWS Credentials

Before you deploy your Lambda project on AWS, you need to have credentials configured on your local machine.

You need to follow this 5 steps:

Make sure you have awscli installed and execute:

$ aws configure
AWS Access Key ID [None]: ${yourKeyID}
AWS Secret Access Key [None]: ${yourSecreteAccessKey}

Congratulations, you configured AWS on your local machine

Step 6: Deploy your project

The next thing you need to do is to deploy your project on AWS, run

serverless deploy

If everything works well, you will receive a similar message:

$ serverless deploy                                                                                                              
Serverless: Packaging service...
Serverless: Excluding development dependencies...
Serverless: Creating Stack...
Serverless: Checking Stack create progress...
Serverless: Stack create finished...
Serverless: Uploading CloudFormation file to S3...
Serverless: Uploading artifacts...
Serverless: Uploading service .zip file to S3 (3.34 KB)...
Serverless: Validating template...
Serverless: Updating Stack...
Serverless: Checking Stack update progress...
Serverless: Stack update finished...
Service Information
service: iursultestbot
stage: dev
region: us-east-1
stack: iursultestbot-dev
api keys:
  POST - https://m93x0b2arg.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/dev/webhook
  hello: iursultestbot-dev-hello

Step 7: Organize a proper response for Telegram

At this step, Lambda and API Gateway are ready, the only thing which is left is response format, we need to send the right response.

Modify your serverless.yml:

service: iursultestbot

  name: aws
  runtime: python3.6

    handler: handler.hello
      - http:
          path: webhook
          method: post
          cors: true

Create a file called requirements.txt and add the following line:


Create a file called setup.cfg and add the following line:


I am not sure if setup.cfg is required for everyone, at least it helped me when I was getting the following message


$ pip3 install -r requirements.txt -t vendored                                                                                   

Collecting requests (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/7d/e3/20f3d364d6c8e5d2353c72a67778eb189176f08e873c9900e10c0287b84b/requests-2.21.0-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting chardet<3.1.0,>=3.0.2 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/bc/a9/01ffebfb562e4274b6487b4bb1ddec7ca55ec7510b22e4c51f14098443b8/chardet-3.0.4-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting urllib3<1.25,>=1.21.1 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/62/00/ee1d7de624db8ba7090d1226aebefab96a2c71cd5cfa7629d6ad3f61b79e/urllib3-1.24.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting idna<2.9,>=2.5 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/14/2c/cd551d81dbe15200be1cf41cd03869a46fe7226e7450af7a6545bfc474c9/idna-2.8-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting certifi>=2017.4.17 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/9f/e0/accfc1b56b57e9750eba272e24c4dddeac86852c2bebd1236674d7887e8a/certifi-2018.11.29-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Installing collected packages: chardet, urllib3, idna, certifi, requests
Successfully installed certifi-2018.11.29 chardet-3.0.4 idna-2.8 requests-2.21.0 urllib3-1.24.1

Modify your handler.py:

import json
import os
import sys

here = os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__file__))
sys.path.append(os.path.join(here, "./vendored"))

import requests

TOKEN = os.environ['TELEGRAM_TOKEN']

def hello(event, context):
        data = json.loads(event["body"])
        message = str(data["message"]["text"])
        chat_id = data["message"]["chat"]["id"]

        data = {
            "text": "Echo: {}".format(message).encode("utf8"),
            "chat_id": chat_id


    except Exception as e:

    return {"statusCode": 200}

Finally, execute:

serverless deploy

Step 8: Configure webhook

The last thing you need to do is configure a web hook:

$ curl --request POST --url https://api.telegram.org/bot610644356:AAGZZCEVxKLLoR113tQzotVVNH9oYV9c32E/setWebhook --header 'content-type: application/json' --data '{"url": "https://m93x0b2arg.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/dev/webhook"}'

{"ok":true,"result":true,"description":"Webhook was set"}

Step 9: Test

Now just go to your chat bot and send any message:

PS - don’t forget to remove your bot after you finish with experiments:

serverless remove


Writing a Serverless Chat Bot makes sense: you can spend fewer dollars on it and have a working Chat Bot without worrying about infrastructure.

In this article I haven’t written about DynamoDB, this is intentional because I didn’t want to over-complicate this blog post.