TL;DR: After dozens of scandals over the last year, Facebook presented a privacy-focused F8, pushing its “meaningful connections” message again with Groups, Events and Messenger at the center. Instagram continues to be the darling of the company’s app suite, moving ahead with shopping and testing the removal of likes from public view.
Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference kicked off on a different note compared to 2018 with CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitting that the company doesn’t have the strongest reputation surrounding user privacy (to put it lightly).
Day 1 focused on private social spaces in the app suite, a Facebook redesign to support these private spaces as well as other new features, while Day 2 was more about Facebook’s investments in artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR).
Here are the updates you need to know about from F8 2019:
Emphasis on Private Spaces: Zuckerberg laid out the logic that we all have public spaces in our lives, like town squares, and we also need private spaces, like our living rooms. “So that’s why I believe, the future is private,” is a statement we can’t see Zuckerberg saying even two years ago. After all, the success of Facebook and other social media platforms is built on users publicly sharing. The areas that are growing most quickly include Stories and private messaging across all apps.
Road map: Zuckerberg said that the company will look to Whatsapp as a case study to build out more secure messaging across its suite and then build other features on top of this. He said the vision is built on six principles: Private interactions, encryption, reduced permanence, safety, interoperability and secure data storage.
While this all sounds good as a keynote, Zuckerberg stopped short of sharing tactics and timelines. As TechCrunch points out, “...we didn’t see any new privacy protections for the developer platform, a replacement for its chief security officer that’s been vacant for nine months or the Clear History feature Zuckerberg announced last year.”
FB5: Facebook has rolled out a total redesign of its mobile app and is expected to introduce a desktop redesign later this year. The focus, you guessed it, are those more private community spaces: Groups and Events.
Groups will take on new importance in the FB5 redesign, with a more robust Groups tab that includes a personalized feed of activity across Groups plus recommendations.
Recommendations will also be available in Marketplace, Today In, Gaming and Facebook Watch.
News Feed post sharing will now support sharing directly to Groups.
Groups will also boast custom features that lend themselves to the Group’s purpose, e.g., health support group will allow anonymous posting
More experience that translate to IRL meeting: Facebook looks to be taking on more of Bumble’s offerings, including expanding its Dating reach and introducing “Meet New Friends”
Dating: On Facebook Dating, you can opt-in to discover potential matches within Facebook Events, Groups, friends of friends among other areas. Dating is currently available in five countries and added 14 more this week. It is expected to be available in the U.S. later this year.
Facebook is also rolling out a “Secret Crush” feature, in which a user can pick up to nine friends as someone you’re interested in. You and your crush will only be notified if you’re on each other’s lists.
Meet New Friends: A new opt-in feature to help people start friendships around shared Facebook communities.
Noticeably missing from this year’s F8 were mentions of Pages or the News Feed. We don’t expect to see big changes, but this also signals that Facebook ad real estate will only get more expensive as the company pushes its private communities (which likely will mean ranking more highly in the News Feed).
Create Mode: To make Instagram more like Facebook, the camera will be updated to include color backgrounds, so that you don’t have an image to post and “express yourself more freely.”
Shop Creators: To further push shopping in the app, Instagram will now include the ability to shop from creators. You’ll be able to tap the image and get information on what the creator is wearing and buy it.
Donation button: Similar to Facebook feed posts, you can now add donation stickers in your Instagram Story
Refining design: Facebook is currently testing a new Messenger desktop app for more seamless communication. This will include group video calls in addition to chat. It’s expected to roll out globally later this year. There will also be a new discovery feature within Messenger of private family and friends content.
Customers and business connecting through Messenger: Not many updates here, but Facebook will be creating lead generation ad templates for Messenger as well as the ability for costumers to book appointments through the app.
AI, AR, VR, oh my
Portal expansion: Last year’s F8 focused on the advancements around AR camera capabilities and VR as it related to Oculus. But Portal took center stage. What started as a dedicated camera for video calling through Messenger and Whatsapp is now expanding to a smart speaker — Facebook’s response to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Portal will be available in Europe this fall.
Other AI updates: Facebook is depending on its AI training to clean up its platform instead of relying on humans to weed through flagged content.
Advancements in AR: Facebook has made a considerable investment in bolstering its AR offering to be inclusive of all skin tones in different lighting. Though this seems small, it’s taken considerable work to ensure that technology can recognize all users. As the technology becomes more mainstream, a company not spending time to be inclusive could deter some consumer groups.
New Oculus gear: Facebook seems to have found its VR footing in gaming and is rolling out the headgear for the gamer. Facebook also will provide ways to stream VR games to television, so users’ friends can join the game through their smartphones… Which sounds like a very odd take on game night. Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S ship May 21.
Oculus for Business: For those companies looking to go fully immersive, Oculus for Business will provide a suite of tools to get brands’ VR creative up and running.
Overall, the tone seemed more somber and aware of the privacy issues the company has faced. The emphasis on private communities has us itching to create new strategies.