Facebook is no longer a conventional social media website. What started off as a way for people to connect with their ‘friends’ now offers a plethora of information and activities – from news to events and even marketplaces to buy and sell items – that makes it the go-to site for almost everyone with an internet connection.
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Having registered around 1.86 million monthly active users by the end of 2016, the multibillion dollar conglomerate continues its efforts to become the most diverse platform on the internet. As Facebook celebrated its 13th anniversary last week, it's evident that Zuckerberg's vision for his company is taking on a new direction. Here are six changes incorporated into Facebook that illustrate the company's future.
Mid-roll video advertisements
Video has been massively popular for Facebook, with users watching 100 million hours of video per day at the start of 2016. Videos also have a 135 percent greater organic reach as compared to photos, making video the new area of focus for marketers.
To capitalise on the popularity of this burgeoning format, Facebook has decided to monetise it by adding mid-roll video advertisements. The feature, which is yet to be added, will allow content creators and marketers to insert ads in videos which are more than 90 seconds long. The ads, which will be shown to users after they have watched 20 seconds of the video, can be inserted in unbranded video content that is relevant to the product of service being advertised. According to Recode, Facebook will sell the ads and share 55 percent of all sales with the publishers – the same revenue offered by YouTube, which is currently the market leader in online video ads.
Facebook Live computer broadcasts
Since its launch a few months ago, Facebook Live has proven to be massively popular among the site's users. The feature, which allows users to broadcast live videos on the site from their phone or tablet cameras, is now going to be made available on laptops and desktops as well. The updates allow video creators to stream directly to Facebook from their web browsers. This feature is currently available only for businesses and brands with Facebook Pages, not individuals. Despite this limitation, Facebook might lure video bloggers away from YouTube as they are afforded direct communication with their followers, who can interact with instant comments on the video feed.
The Facebook Journalism Project
Social media sites have become the new place for users to get news updates and Facebook is one of the most popular sites in this group. Realising its newfound status as a media company, Facebook has launched the ‘Journalism Project’ – a venture though which the company aims to collaborate with news organisations and journalists to make publishing on the site an easier affair.
In an announcement last month, Facebook details the various steps the company will take to improve its status as a reliable news provider. Along with pioneering new ways to tell stories (Live, 360, instant articles), Facebook aims to set up partnerships with leading media organisations and publishers around the world. The company is also developing a host of tools and features for journalists to discover and share news along with e-learning courses for journalists. Facebook has also announced a news feed update to tackle the growing problem of fake news it faces.
Messenger goes independent
Facebook has been trying to get more users on its Messenger app for a while now. Having made it independent in 2015 (users could sign up for it without a Facebook account), the company has updated the app to incorporate far more features in the past few months. Messenger now allows its 1 billion plus monthly users to participate in group chats, send and receive SMS messages (only on Android), and add contacts without becoming friends on Facebook. Messenger also allows businesses and brands to create chat bots, which greatly improve and ease communication with followers without the need of a human response.
News feed update
Facebook users all face a common dilemma – there is just far too much information for anyone to consume. With every page, celebrity, and group liked or followed comes a slew of irrelevant posts on the news feed. To combat this issue, Facebook has been tweaking its news feed to prioritise posts from family and friends over content from pages and publishers. Also, the algorithm actively records behaviour – by noting engagement (likes and comments) and the use of features like ‘unfollow’, ‘see first’, and ‘hide’ – to offer each user a personalised and unique news feed.
Facebook is rolling out a new mobile-only feature called ‘Discover People’, which helps users to connect with strangers based on common interests and location. A user can find other people who are attending the same event, working for the same company, belonging to the same groups, or living in the same locality. Operating in a Tinder-esque manner, the ‘Discover People’ feature shows other users in a list format with individual information displayed based on the user's privacy setting. Users found via this feature, which is not yet available to Facebook's entire user base, can be messaged, ‘poked’, or added as friends.
If it continues releasing features and updates at this pace, Facebook will soon dominate virtually every vertical possible – from media to advertising to shopping – in a few years’ time.