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Facebook Changes Announced at F8 Conference

Facebook has announced new features at the annual F8 Developers Conference which kicked off in San Francisco on Wednesday. The two-day event covers new tools for developers and offers early access to product demos as well as discussion on a number of topics. This year so far has seen Mark Zuckerberg open the conference with an announcement of a major update to Facebook Messenger.

The social media firm has added a raft of new features to its chatting app. Users will be able to send photos, GIFs and music and integrate Messenger with third-party apps. Developers will from now on be able to add a button for Messenger directly into apps. So for example, a ticketing app for movies or travel with a Messenger button would instantly be able to share information directly from within the app.

Messenger for Business

Facebook also unveiled Messenger Business, which will allow consumers to chat directly with businesses from within the app. This will allow people to contact customer service reps to make requests, ask questions, make reservations and presumably track orders etc., all in one conversation, so it’s simple to keep track of.

According to TechCrunch, early partners for the content tools features include ESPN, JibJab and Giphy and will be available immediately to users via a Messenger update which is already available. However Messenger Business will be rolled out at some undisclosed point in the future.

Recently, the social media site announced that it would be possible for users to send cash to one another using its messaging app. The new feature will place a dollar sign in the app which a user simply has to press to send cash to friends. Before this is possible though, payment information such as debit card details will have to be added to the Facebook account. It’s thought that the new feature will roll out to iOS and Android users in the coming months.

With this in mind, it seems that Facebook is doing everything it can to ensure that its chat app becomes somewhat indispensable to users. The ability to chat directly with businesses and eventually – surely – send money and place orders through the app could prove invaluable. Mobile payments in particular are something that many companies, including Apple, are looking to make an impact in. Facebook already processes more than 1m transactions on the site every day and has said that it plans to use security features that it’s been working on specifically for payment services on the main site since 2007.

Spherical Video

Also announced at the conference was the news that Facebook will soon support “spherical videos” which are 360-degree, immersive videos which work in the Newsfeed. These will work with virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, which is owned by the social media company. The videos will be shot using 24 high-res cameras and will allow users to view a 360-degree exploration of cities and landscapes.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook users are already shifting from text and photos to video and he sees virtual and augmented reality as a natural extension of this. The company acquired Oculus Rift last year for $2bn and this is the first use of it that we’ve seen, although developers can buy the goggles for $350. It’s thought that whilst the original plan for the virtual reality headsets was for video games, the company has since been experimenting with other uses such as live-action scenes and animated films.

New Developer Kit

Facebook also introduced a new SDK (software developer kit) to support Internet of Things (IoT) devices and will be opening up its mobile building suite Parse to further support home web-connected devices. Whilst it’s not clear why Facebook will open up Parse,  it’s thought that it signals the company’s intention to be one day able to control home devices such as lighting directly from within the social network.

Analytics for Apps

Another new tool that was announced on Wednesday was Analytics for Apps, a marketing tool that allows you to see how your apps are performing across different platforms and demographics. The web dashboard will show you how far different demographics progressed along the sales pipeline. This will then allow you to change strategy to further target those groups that didn’t make a purchase – or to further focus on those people who did buy.

Facebook Continue to Innovate

All of the announcements made so far at F8 signal Facebook’s intention to continue being innovative enough to ensure that it remains the most popular social network in the world. With the ability to send messages within apps, chat to businesses and send cash, there will be little need for many people to use other apps such as email. It’s likely too that we’ll see the company focus more on business use in the future.

The really exciting thing for me though is the idea of 360-degree video in Newsfeed. This indicates that the company is taking steps to make use of Oculus Rift beyond the world of gaming. Instead, it seems that we could easily be using the googles to explore the world from inside the social network within a few years.

Thursday’s event will continue to discuss virtual reality, analytics, building complex apps on Parse and much more. You can catch up with what’s happened so far via the Video on Demand conference page.

Image credit: Facebook Developer Blog

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