Facebook kicked off its F8 Developers Conference Tuesday with a keynote from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“This has been an intense year. I can’t believe we’re only four months in,” said Zuckerberg, who was no doubt referring in part to the firestorm since Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica for exploiting user data.
He moved on, offering a brief overview of recent announcements the site has made around data privacy issues and actions it was taking to safeguard user information. Zuckerberg talked about how the company now limits the data available to apps and the app removal tool it rolled out last month to make it easier for users to delete unwanted apps.
New Clear History tool
In addition to summarizing actions already taken, Zuckerberg announced Facebook would be rolling out a Clear History tool that would let users clear their browsing history on the platform and see all the apps they had interacted with.
“This is the kind of control we think people should have,” said Zuckerberg, but only after noting how clearing your history may make your Facebook experience worse, as the platform won’t be able to serve up content based on your activity.
Zuckerberg recapped all the ways the site was addressing issues around election interference, fighting fake news and data privacy issues, claiming that what happened with Cambridge Analytica was a “major breach of trust.”
He also said that the company was slow to identify the ways Russia had used the platform to interfere in the 2016 elections, but that his team would never be unprepared again. He then outlined Facebook’s primary messaging points around these issues: that they have AI tools constantly monitoring and taking down fake accounts, the new ad policies they’ve introduced to enforce political ad transparency, and the company’s push to have 20,000 people working on security by the end of 2018.
Once Zuckerberg was able to address all the ways Facebook was working to fix its data-crisis issues — none of which are all that appealing if you are a developer tasked with designing Facebook apps — he moved on to new product announcements.
Facebook launches Watch Party, a Groups tab, and new dating profiles
The first new feature Zuckerberg announced was Watch Party — a video tool that lets users watch a video with other users and chat at the same time.
“For example, if one of your friends is testifying before Congress,” said Zuckerberg, showing an example of how the Watch Party video feature would work, using footage of his recent appearance before Congress.
The site is also launching a new Groups Tab to make Groups “more central” to the Facebook experience. In addition to putting a tab in place for Groups, it is also launching a “Join Group” button that developers can put on websites, in emails, or in other places outside of Facebook to make joining groups easier.
Zuckerberg also announced that the site would be rolling out a Dating Profile app for users but left details around it to be covered in the follow-up presentation with Facebook’s chief of product, Chris Cox.
Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger Updates
In addition to the coming Facebook-specific products, the company is also polishing up Instagram with a new design for the Explorer section, now organizing content around content channels. Instagram is also getting video chat for one-on-one and group conversations, as well as AR camera effects.
AR camera effects are also coming to Messenger and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg said WhatsApp will also be getting a group video-calling feature soon.
Before going into the details around updates to WhatsApp, Zuckerberg took a moment to thank Jan Koum, the CEO of WhatsApp, and said he was deeply grateful for all Koum’s work. Koum announced yesterday in a Facebook post on his personal page that he was leaving the company, saying that he was taking some time to enjoy things outside of technology.
It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best…
Koum’s Facebook post came a day after The Washington Post reported Koum was leaving because his personal beliefs clashed with Facebook’s policies around personal data and weakened encryption systems.
Zuckerberg commented on Koum’s post: “I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands.”
And you get an Oculus Go, and you get an Oculus Go, and you get an Oculus Go…
To get back in the good graces of the developers, Zuckerberg ended his presentation with the news that Oculus Go was shipping today. Facebook’s VR headset comes with 1,000 apps and is priced at $199 — but everyone at F8 was getting one for free (a possible olive branch to all the developers who have been suffering through Facebook’s recent app policy changes).
There was no mention of a “Facebook Analytics” app that showed up in app stores before the conference began this morning, as reported by TechCrunch. Like Facebook’s Pages manager and Ads manager, the app lets business owners see Facebook engagement and conversion metrics and receive notifications from their phone.
Facebook’s F8 is a two-day conference that includes several panels, all focusing on topics relevant to Facebook’s developer base. We will be sure to cover Zuckerberg’s second keynote address again tomorrow on the last day of the conference.