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Facebook Shifts for the Future – Part 1 ~9 min

Aitarget examines key announcements from Day 1 of F8 2019

Aitarget experts joined developers, creators, and entrepreneurs fr om around the world in San Jose on 30 April and 1 May for F8, Facebook’s annual two-day conference.

More than 5,000 people explored the future of technology via dozens of expert presentations, deep-dive sessions, and product demonstrations showcasing the latest tools for businesses in Facebook family.

Despite the large number of attendees, our experts found F8 2019 had a very welcoming and personal atmosphere. Many onstage speakers shared their own photos and stories about using technology with their loved ones, stressing the idea of intimate connection.

F8 2019 overflowed with innovations, emphasised by the interactive, high-tech conference space, wh ere attendees could grab and try Oculus headsets, Smart Cameras, and more.

In this article, our Aitarget team have handpicked some key highlights from the first day which was packed with announcements across the whole Facebook family.

A new era: the future is private

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg opened his F8 2019 keynote address by sharing “a fundamental shift”: the social network would be building a more privacy-focused platform.
“The basic idea here is that in all of our lives we have our public spaces, like our town squares, and we have our private spaces, like our living rooms,” said Zuckerberg. “In our digital lives we also need both public and private spaces.”

The last fifteen years has seen Facebook built as a digital town square, where users could connect widely across geographic boundaries and do things with a lot of people all at once. Now Facebook would also focus on giving people the freedom and space to be themselves.

“It’s easier to feel like you belong when you’re among smaller communities and your closest friends,” said Zuckerberg when talking about the new focus on the digital living room. “As the world gets bigger and more connected, we need that sense of intimacy more than ever.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged Facebook doesn’t have the best reputation regarding privacy, and declared he’s “committed to doing this well, and starting a new chapter for the products”.

During the keynote, Facebook outlined six key principles that it will apply to everything it is looking to do in the coming years.

  • Private interactions: the right for everyone to be able to privately interact without anyone “watching”.

  • Encryption: integrating end-to-end encryption throughout the Facebook experience.

  • Reduced permanence: making sure what users post today will not come back and haunt them in the future (e.g. content and messages that disappear after time, like Stories).

  • Safety: the right for everybody to feel safe when using any of the company’s apps.

  • Interoperability: the ability to communicate and use any of the Facebook family of apps to reach their friends across Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

  • Secure data storage: ensuring that data is secure and cannot be seized by anyone – including governments, and Facebook itself.


Zuckerberg said Facebook was “committed to working openly”, taking a consultative approach and a more proactive role with ensuring partners and developers use Facebook tools for good. It also concerns building infrastructure and products to support their privacy vision.

A new look for summer

For the first time in five years, Facebook is changing its attire. The new FB5 has a community-focused look some are calling an “aspirational redesign” moving towards what the social network wishes it could be.

FB5 sheds Facebook’s classic blue-and-white branding for a clean white design that’s “simpler, faster, more immersive, and puts your communities at the centre,” announced Fidji Simo, Head of product at Facebook. Updates began rolling out to US app users immediately from the announcement at F8 2019, with a fresh new desktop site for everyone coming later this year.

Source: Facebook press kit

The redesign increases the prominence of both Groups and Marketplace on the freshly tabbed interface. “Everywhere there are friends, there should be Groups,” said Simo. The fast-growing Marketplace will also be adding direct payments and shipping. Sellers can reach more buyers and get paid securely.

With FB5 users will be able to save where they left a News Feed, so they can easily return to what matters most. A dark mode for mobile and desktop will also be available.

Time for a Groups hug

“Groups are at the heart of Facebook’s redesign,” announced Simo. Facebook wants to make it easier for users with shared passions to both connect online and gather together offline.

Groups will become more prominent all across the Facebook experience, from News Feed to wherever users engage with friends, family, and businesses.

The revamp is being “built with communities in mind”.

Already more than 400 million users say they belong to a group they find meaningful, said Simo, which is why Facebook is introducing new tools to make it easier to discover and engage with groups of people who share your interests, while working to ensure user safety.

  • Redesigned Groups tab for easier discoverability. This will allow users to see a personalised feed of activity across all their groups, front and centre; and improved recommendations will let people quickly find groups they may be interested in.

  • Easy participation, easy sharing. Facebook is making it easier to get relevant group recommendations throughout its app in places like Marketplace, Today In, the Gaming tab, and Facebook Watch. Users may see more groups content in News Feed, and will be able to share content directly to their groups from News Feed.

  • New community-specific features. Recognising that different communities can have different needs, Facebook is introducing new features for various types of groups. New Health Support groups will allow members to anonymously ask questions and share information. Employers have a new template to post vacancies in Job groups, while those looking for roles can message and apply directly through Facebook. Gamers have new chat features, shopping groups – new shipping options, and local communities – new features related to what’s on and local events.

WhatsApp-ening for better business

WhatsApp already led the way among Facebook apps when it comes to privacy, with its encrypted and restricted “share location” option, and its private and impermanent Status sharing experience (which has become even more popular than Instagram Stories).

“Now along with becoming even safer with further privacy upgrades, WhatsApp will be delivering more for business,” announced Ami Vora, VP Product Management at WhatsApp.

“What if we could make sending money as simple as sending a message?” asked Vora. WhatsApp Pay, being tested in India, could be rolled out to other countries in the next few months.

Also in the coming months, WhatsApp users will be able to view product catalogues right within the app when chatting with a business.

Brands will be able to showcase goods within their catalogue. Combined with better payment solutions, the WhatsApp upgrades will allow companies to conduct business online without a website.

Shopping and giving Insta-ly

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced that users will soon be able to shop from creators they love (from public figures and artists to entrepreneurs and publishers) without leaving Instagram. Anyone in the global Instagram community will be able to shop from creators by tapping to see what they’re wearing and buying it on the spot, rather than having to take a screenshot or ask for product details in comments. Testing has begun with a small group of creators, and access will be expanded over time.

Starting from F8 2019, Instagram users in the US can raise money directly on Instagram for nonprofits, using a donation sticker in Stories to mobilise their community. Other users can tap on the sticker to donate. All money raised goes to the nonprofit.

In addition to this, Instagram will improve the camera design and add new features for applying special effects to photos.

Other Day 1 announcements

Along with the points above, the various speakers on Day 1 of F8 2019 made plenty of other revelations. Here’s a brief rundown.

Messenger

  • Faster, simpler, safer: rolling out this year, a completely rebuilt MB5 will be 2x faster and 7x smaller than competing apps. End-to-end encryption as default is the goal to ensure data privacy.

  • Messenger Desktop: a desktop version for Windows and MacOS allowing group video calls, collaboration, and multi-tasking while chatting. A potential Skype killer?

  • Business connections: lead generation templates for Ads Manager, and booking of appointments within Messenger conversations.

  • Closer connections: introducing a dedicated space where users can discover Stories and messages with closest friends and family.

  • Watch together (testing now for rolling out later this year): discover, seamlessly share, and watch videos together in real time while messaging or on video chat.

Facebook

  • Facebook Dating: opt-in to discover potential matches within events, groups, friends of friends, etc. is now expanded from five countries to 19 countries.

  • Secret Crush: a new Facebook Dating feature where users can list up to nine friends they’re interested in. Crushes remain secret unless both users list each other as a secret crush.

This announcement created plenty of buzz among F8 2019 attendees.

  • Meet New Friends: opt-in to meet new people from shared communities and groups.

Instagram

  • Anti-bullying: features are being tested to combat bullying, and users who take comments too far will receive a “nudge”.

  • Self care: an “away” feature will give distance during stressful life events, and profiles will put less emphasis on follower numbers.

AR & VR

  • Portal expands: coming to Canada and Europe this year, Portal will add WhatsApp, encrypted calls, and the ability to call any friend who uses WhatsApp or Messenger.

  • Watch and play: multiplayer AR games, Instant Games, Storytime app, Amazon Prime and Facebook Live are all coming to Portal.

  • Spark AR expands: over one billion people have used experiences powered by Spark AR in the past year. The new Spark AR Studio now supports Windows and Mac and includes new features and functionality – “immersive ways to feel connected.”

  • Oculus for Business: a suite of tools to help companies reshape the way they do business through VR will be launched later this year. Also, the two newest virtual reality headsets, Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S, ship May 21 (you can preorder them now).

It was a full and exciting first day at F8 2019, with lots of announcements, revamps, and future plans. We’ll explore the highlights from Day 2 in Part 2.