Facebook’s F8 conference is on right now. Happening over two days – May 1 and 2 – at the McEnery Convention Centre in San Jose, California, F8 is the social media giant’s annual update on what’s new and a possible sneak peek at upcoming products and services from the company’s various divisions and verticals. In its ninth edition this year, F8 is taking place in the shadow of the recent Cambridge Analytica fiasco and the ensuing conversations about the importance of data privacy, protection of users’ data, and Facebook’s role in the world at large. There have already been several major announcements on Day 1 of F8, from new services and applications to updates on platform policy.
Here are the biggest developments from Day 1 of Facebook’s F8 conference:
Your data, your rules
In arguably the biggest privacy update since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Facebook – for the first time in its history – is giving users the option to delete data the platform has collected from sites and apps that use its ads and analytics tool. This means that users will now have the ability to wipe some of their browsing data and history from Facebook’s servers. At the Congressional hearings last month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a lot of questions about how much control users can exert over how Facebook collects and stores their data – the new Clear History tool is likely a response to those questions, and the resulting furore when Mark revealed users had very little control indeed. Hopefully, the new tool will change all that.
Love in the time of Facebook
Plenty of popular dating apps, from Tinder to TrulyMadly, use Facebook profiles and data for their users. Recognising the opportunity here, Facebook has announced its own set of dating features, which will debut for testing later this year. The as-yet-unnamed service will let people opt-in for creating a dating profile on Facebook, that will be visible only to non-friends who have also created a dating profile. Facebook will match users based on a variety of preferences, and given the company’s massive stores of data on users, the platform is betting it can give you highly relevant matches.
There are, of course, concerns over privacy and how much additional data Facebook will gather from the dating profiles, but the announcement has already made waves; stock of Match Group – the parent company of popular dating platforms like Tinder, PlentyOfFish, Match.com, and OKCupid – tanked 22 percent after the news.
Go for Oculus Go
Since Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, the company behind leading Virtual Reality device Oculus Rift, in 2014, the social media company has made several steps into the AR/VR space. Yesterday, the Oculus Go, Facebook’s cheap and standalone VR headset, went on sale officially. The headset comes in two variants – 32GB and 64GB of onboard storage. The headset has launched with a catalogue of over 20 applications and games, with more expected soon. The key differentiator from other VR headsets in the similar price range, such as Samsung’s Gear VR, is that the Oculus Go does not require users to plug in an external phone or device, but rather is a completely self-contained unit.
Beyond photo-sharing – Instagram gets video chat
Instagram is finally getting video chat, a feature that has been rumoured to be in development since March. In his announcement at F8, Mark noted that many users already used Instagram’s live video feature to chat with their followers, saying, “People use live video to just hang out...It’s amazing how many of these tools are about bringing us together.” Video chat is a natural evolution of this process, he added. Instagram is also getting a couple of new features, including a new filter to help stop bullying on the platform in comments, as well as an improved and updated Explore tab and support for AR features from third parties.
The return of app reviews
In news that has surely brought cheer to developers everywhere, Facebook announced that it would soon be reopening its app review process that the company had suspended in the wake of Cambridge Analytica. Speaking on-stage at F8, Mark said, “Now, I know that it hasn’t been easy being a developer these past couple months, that’s probably an understatement. What I can assure you is that we’re hard at work making sure people don’t misuse this platform so you can all keep building things that people love, and today I’m happy to share that we’re reopening app reviews so you can all keep moving forward.”
There were also plenty of other announcements on Day 1, including the introduction of translation in Messenger chats (starting with English-Spanish translations in the US); the inclusion of 3D illustrations and models in the Facebook News Feed and the reveal of VR memories – 3D environment conversions of 2D photos; the announcement that WhatsApp Stories hit 450 million Daily Active Users (DAUs), an unprecedented peak for the feature; announcement of integrated sharing to Facebook and Instagram Stories from third-party apps like Spotify, SoundCloud, and GoPro; and the long-rumoured reveal of Oculus TV.
Facebook stumped expectations by posting higher-than-expected earnings for the last quarter, and the slew of announcements and reveals at Day 1 of the F8 show that the company is pushing ahead full-steam, Cambridge Analytica notwithstanding. What will Day 2 of F8 bring? Stay tuned to find out!