Facebook Pushes New Connections, a Virtual World at F8

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TL;DR: At F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, the company revealed new additions to its app suite, including Facebook dating, group video chat across all platforms and mainstream uses for VR.

Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference is a flashy event covering all things Facebook, which now includes Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus. Day 1 covered app updates, like Facebook dating (a direct competitor to Match.com’s suite including Tinder), group video chatting for all (likely to rival the Gen Z group video chat app of choice, Houseparty) and incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). Following the reveal of Oculus Go at $199, Day 2 was littered with more announcements surrounding AI, AR as well as virtual reality and how Oculus users can soon experience this content from top producers.

Feeling overwhelmed? We rounded up the biggest updates coming to the Facebook suite:

Facebook

  • Dating: Zuckerberg said the new feature is for relationships, “not just hookups,” which sounds a lot like the company’s intentions to drive the “more meaningful connections” strategy Facebook rolled out this year. Users saw more opportunities for jokes than romance:

  • Privacy: Facebook is building a clear history tool that will allow users to delete data used in ads and analytics tools to satisfy uneasy users. We’ll be watching how this will affect Facebook ad placement in the future.
  • Group video chat: Even Facebook knows producing a live-stream can be tricky — ironically the live-stream for F8 2018 cut out during Zuckerberg’s Day 1 keynote. Facebook plans to pivot its efforts and focus on building meaningful conversations, through group video chat.

Instagram

  • Group video chat: To keep up with the popularity of Instagram Direct, group video chat will be available on the app as well.

  • Stories: Third-party app integration will be available on Stories (and Facebook Stories too, but who actually uses that?). This will start with Spotify, SoundCloud — users will be able to share what they’re listening to with an embedded link so followers don’t have to go hunting in the other app — and GoPro — to make video uploads through branded cameras more seamless.

  • Anti-bullying: Unlike Facebook, Instagram had no filters for profanity, making it a horrible game of whack-a-mole to community manage some account. This update plus AI to proactively monitor for abusive language and hate speech will make the platform safer for younger users.

WhatsApp

  • Growth: The app now has more than 450 million daily active users. Facebook has been quickly adding features like Stories, stickers and is rumored to soon release direct payments to keep people coming back.

  • Group video chat: Similar to Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp will also support a group video chat feature.

Messenger

  • Design: In short, Messenger users are going to see a cleaner interface. The app will focuses on its core function of communication. Gone are games, apps and other clutter that distracted from your primary task of messaging.

  • AI translations: Starting with Marketplace conversations, M will offer to help translate Spanish to English and vice versa for users in the United States. As Facebook trains “M” to translate other languages the feature will come to other countries and regions.

  • AR products: Facebook also wants to bring AR into Messenger to enable interactions with products outside a store. When a person connects with a brand through Messenger, the brand can reply with custom camera filters and AR effects so the customer can experience product demos and sneak peaks. One example from the closed beta showed how Sephora created AR effects so customers could digitally try makeup on their own face.

Oculus Go

  • After a splashy introduction to VR at last year’s F8, Facebook is finally rolling out not only affordable hardware, but a suite of new experiences to go along with the $199 headset. This is independent from smartphones, so Facebook no longer has to wait for cell phone companies to roll out the right tech for the content it wants to produce.

  • In addition to Spaces and TV, users will be able to view games, professional sports and concerts with Oculus Venue.

The conference comes less than two months after an investigation from The New York Times, The Observer of London and The Guardian revealed how data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data from tens of millions of Facebook users starting back in 2014 that was later used during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And just three weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate to address questions surrounding the scandal. While privacy was a buzzword of F8 2018, Zuckerberg hardly addressed the actual issues facing users and even used some of the recent news to make a few awkward jokes.

Not all updates from F8 came with a definitive roll out date, so be sure to check back for the latest coming to Facebook.

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