A lot has happened in Facebook world since its 2017 developers’ conference. The company’s user base continued to grow despite privacy issues so massive they spurred CEO and former dorm room resident, Mark Zuckerberg, into testifying before Congress. We expect this year’s keynote to focus firmly on security with some new user-oriented features thrown in to spice things up, including talk about VR, AI, and other technology acronyms. You can watch the live stream above and check out a running tally of the events and announcements below.
Before the event, Mark Zuckerberg issued a statement on his own Facebook page about what to expect from the event. The first development is a “clear cache” button that wipes away the data Facebook has about you from some of its tracking utilities. Hopefully, this is a chance for Zuck to get into the nitty-gritty of the privacy updates without having to navigate around the clumsy questions he encountered during his Congressional testimony.
Zuck comes out smiling. He says this has been an “intense year,” and he’s right. Clearly, there’s going to be a lot of security talk at this event. The first real announcement is that App Review process is happening again so developers can actually make apps.
Now we’re moving into Facebook’s role in elections. He’s going over the tools we already knew about like the fact that you can see who bought an ad and the fact that there will be 20,000 people working on content review by the end of the year.
Zuckerberg says that there are three categories of people they’re trying to combat on Facbeook during elections:
- Spammers who just want money
- Fake accounts created by “bad actors”
- Real people who are sharing fake information
We’ve heard these three categories before as well. Zuckerberg says they’re using task forces and AI among other things to combat it.
1:14 PM is the first time we hear mention of GDPR, which is clearly looming large over this conference.
The first big new tool is a user tool called Clear History. You can see information gathered from Facebook integration onto other sites, including apps and websites that use Facebook’s ads. Zuckerberg says “we’re building this,” but doesn’t offer a date for it to roll out. He does, however, say that you can turn off that tracking forever once you clear it. It will be limited at first. Gut reaction is that this is a little unclear about whether or not this is all the data Facebook has about you.
“People want Facebook to be about friends and interacting with people,” is a theme. Watch Party is a feature that lets you watch videos in small groups and chat with your friends. He uses his own Congressional testimony video as an example. This seems like something that will get more popular with more content partnerships like the one it already has with the MLB.
Zuckerberg says that Groups will become a larger part of the Facebook experience. There will soon be a “join group” button that creators can use in order to build on the community. So, you can put the button on web pages and in emails. You can be friends with more #brands on Facebook.
Facebook is taking aim at Tinder and wants to build “long-term relationships.” It’s optional and you’ll only get suggested people who aren’t your friends that have opted into the Dating section.
Dating profiles use just a person’s first name and none of the content shows up in Newsfeed. Users can browse groups and events to find people who share specific interests. You “unlock” an event by clicking on it and then you can browse people who are there or will go there. Once you reach out to someone, you have a text-only message service that isn’t tied into Whatsapp or Messenger.
Now we’re onto Facebook’s other apps, starting with Instagram. More than 100 million people now follow hashtags on Instagram since last December. Explore is getting a new design oriented around topic channels. Hopefully it will recommend fewer vapid “influencers” all the time now. Video chat will let you talk one-on-one or in groups with people directly within Instagram. This has been rumored for a long time. AR camera effects are coming to Instagram now, which means stories are about to get even more insane looking.
You can now share GoPro footage directly to Instagram stories, which is an interesting integration. Getting camera footage into stories is usually a huge pain.
Instagram is getting access to the Camera Effects platform, so creators can make their own effects. I know this is popular, but I also just really like when people share thoughtful
Whatsapp is now getting group video calling over its encrypted network so you can talk to multiple people instead of just one. Whatsapp is probably the least sexy app in Facebook’s arsenal in terms of features, but I’m surprised it’s not front-and-center during this presentation since it’s one of the most secure things it makes. It’s also very successful. There are 450 million regular users of the app’s Stories feature.
Facbeook is opening the platform for third-party sticker packs, which seems like a misstep to me. Let the app be un-sexy and secure.
Facebooks IM platform is getting a new design that’s “faster and cleaner.” More than 300,000 businesses are using Messenger and bots, and they’re sending 8 billion messages per month.
One of the big developments for Messenger is the addition of AR. Brands can now make “experiences” that let you use “secret emoji codes.” The demo involves unlocking a new Nike sneaker that you can inspect and then share with your friends. The Messenger section of the presentation is very much about marketing and selling people stuff. It seems clear that Facebook is trying to make Messenger more about selling stuff and WhatsApp about interpersonal communication.
UPDATE: Here’s a clarification about how the AR integration works in messenger. Brands can now use a template that opens the camera with pre-loaded filters or brand-specific AR effects. The secret emoji code was specific to Nike’s experience and wasn’t specifically part of what Facebook launched today across the platform.
Facebook is mapping real spaces so you can interact with content in VR and AR.
Oculus Go starts shipping today for $199. It’s launching with more than 1000 apps and has high-quality lenses and optics. “It’s the easiest way to get into VR.” Facebook clearly sees this as a gateway for people into interacting with VR content. Zuckerberg announces that everyone at the conference is getting a free Oculus Go and a lot of gross cheering and clapping happens.
Now, in addition to the “check in” features, Facebook allows for “First Party Accounts,” from people who are in the area of a natural disaster. So, they can share updates about things like traffic or conditions. It’s a roundabout way for Facebook to prioritize information that’s coming from people directly in the affected area.
Going into day two of F8, we won’t get anymore Mark Zuckerberg facetime, but we will get more of a look into Facebook’s future and some announcements. The presentation starts off with talk about AI and how important it is for automatically identifying specific types of content, especially if it’s harmful.
One big area of focus for Facebook’s AI is computer vision. The company is trying to learn how to recognize people and objects in the real world. The demo shows the difference between last year’s tech and this year’s. The 2018 version is a lot smoother with a much higher framerate.
The next step after vision is recognizing language. Facebook has a new system called MUSE (Multilingual Unsupervised and Supervised Embeddings) for understanding natural language. This all seems very odd when you consider that Facebook doesn’t have a consumer-facing virtual assistant yet.
Facebook made an AI bot that plays the game Go, which is an increasingly common test for AI intelligence. You can download the bot here and play against it or use its learning tech in research.
BACK TO VR
One of Facebook’s big announcements yesterday was that it’s shipping its Oculus Go stand-alone VR headset. Now, we’re getting into the more nitty gritty aspects of Facebook’s latest VR advancements. The talk about VR capture is a little vague and partially focuses on VR that includes the person’s hands within the scene. Worth nothing that Oculus Go doesn’t have cameras on the front, so it can’t actually see your hands while you’re using VR.
The demo shows an impressive 3D recreation of a room and some accurate VR avatars as well for chatting. Facebook clearly expects people to try and interact in a face-to-face VR environment.