In its annual F8 Developer conference, Facebook announced a number of changes for its core products like the main app, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp all with a focus on privacy. Facebook is facing sharp criticism over the issue of user privacy with and is also bracing for a $5 billion fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over this issue.
The message at its F8 conference was that the social network is pivoting towards user privacy, an idea that Mark Zuckerberg has also tried to reiterated in earlier posts and discussions. Zuckerberg has acknowledged that some might find it difficult that Facebook really cares for user privacy considering the company’s track record. Here’s a look at the key announcements from Facebook’s F8.
Facebook F8: What is this privacy focused platform that Zuckerberg keeps talking about?
The Facebook CEO announced that ‘The future is private’ in his F8 keynote. He touched on a lot of topics like payments, content not sticking around forever, privacy when it comes to location. “A private social platform will be even more important in our lives,” Zuckerberg said during his keynote.
During the keynote, Zuckerberg again admitted that ‘they don’t have the strongest reputation on privacy,’ though one could not miss the fact that he was smiling broadly and the audience laughed while he was saying this.
However, Facebook insists privacy is their focus and so they will be redesigning several products around this. Zuckerberg called this a new chapter for their products and is confident that the company can do this. He also listed his six principles for this private social network: Private communications, encryption (end-to-end encryption), reducing permanence, safety, interoperability meaning use any of Facebook’s app to reach another one, and secure data storage.
Zuckerberg has been clear that Facebook will not store data in countries where there is weak rule of law or where governments will try and access use data. He also said that the company will be in touch with experts over the course of the next year, as it tries to build these principles into its products.
Facebook F8: So what’s changing with Messenger ?
Messenger is being redesigned from the ground-up with Facebook re-building the architecture of its messaging app in order to make this faster and lighter. The completely re-engineered Messenger will begin to roll out later this year.
Facebook’s CEO said that the company is working towards making end-to-end encryption as default mode on Messenger as well. “I think this is just going to be a historically important step for privacy around the world, ” Zuckerberg said.
What he didn’t confirm was when this end-to-end encryption would be default on Messenger like it is on WhatsApp. Right now to have an end-to-end encrypted talk on Messenger, one needs to start a secret chat.
The new Messenger app will also let users discover and watch videos from Facebook together in real-time with their friends . They will be able to seamlessly share a video from the Facebook app on to Messenger and invite others to watch together, while messaging or on a video chat. Facebook is currently testing this now and will begin to roll it out globally later this year.
The company also announced a new dedicated desktop app for Messenger. The app can be downloaded on both Windows and MacOS and it will have group video calls as well. This is also in testing right now and will roll out later in the year.
Messenger will also have a dedicated space to discover Stories and messages with close friends and family. For businesses Facebook will add an option to create an appointment experience so people can book appointments within a Messenger conversation. All of these change will be coming to the app later in the year.
F8: What’s changing with WhatsApp?
The big major announcement around WhatsApp was around business catalog. Going forward, WhatsApp will have a feature where people will be able to see a business catalog right within the app when chatting with a business. With catalogs, businesses will be able to showcase their goods, so people can easily discover them.
Zuckerberg also talked about Payments on WhatsApp and said they are testing this with 1 million people. “We are working on rolling this out in a number of other countries,” he added though he did not specify which countries and when.
In India, WhatsApp payments has been delayed because RBI has ruled that all such data related to payments needs to be stored in the country, an idea that Facebook is opposed to entirely.
F8: What about Facebook?
Facebook is putting its bets on Groups, and says they will put this aspect at the center of their social media website. Facebook is getting a refreshed design, which will make it faster, more immersive, and the company is calling it FB5. More importantly, the app or desktop site will not have the iconic blue colour anymore in the new design.
Some of these updates will be visible in the Facebook app right away. The new desktop site will come in the next few months, according to the company’s official blog post.
Groups: Facebook is redesigning the Groups tab to make discovery easier and it will show a personalised feed of activity across all of a user’s groups. The new discovery tool with improved recommendations will let users quickly find groups they might be interested in joining.
The News Feed will show more content from groups and users will be able to post content to groups from News Feed, similar to how they do with friends and family.
Facebook is also adding new “Health Support groups,” where members can post questions and share information without their name appearing on a post. In Jobs Groups, there will be a new template for employers to post openings, and easier ways for job seekers to message the employer and apply directly through Facebook.
Further in Gaming groups, there will be a new chat feature so members can create threads for different topics within the group. On Facebook Live, if someone is selling items, buyers will be able to questions and place orders without leaving the live broadcast.
Facebook is also working on a “Meet New Friends” feature, where it wants to “help people start friendships with new people from their shared communities like a school, workplace or city.” This is an opt-in feature and users will only see other people that are open to meeting new friends, and vice versa. This is being tested in a few places for now.
On Marketplace, sellers will be able to items anywhere in the continental US and buyers will be able to pay for their purchases directly on the platform. A new Events tab will also be added where users will be able to see what’s happening around them, get recommendations, etc.
F8: What’s this about Facebook connecting people with secret crushes?
For those who remember, Facebook Dating is also a part of the social network. The feature was earlier available in Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina, and Mexico. Facebook has now expanded this to 14 new countries which are Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname.
The Secret Crush feature is also being added to Facebook Dating. So for those who choose to use Secret Crush, they will be able to select up to nine of their Facebook friends as their ‘Secret crush’ meaning someone who they are interested in dating.
The newsroom blog post explains, “If your crush has opted into Facebook Dating, they will get a notification saying that someone has a crush on them. If your crush adds you to their Secret Crush list, it’s a match!” However, if the crush is not on Dating or does not create Secret Crush list, or does not put the user’s name on their list, then no one will know that the user entered a friend’s name.”
F8: What are the changes to Instagram ?
Instagram will soon have an option where users will be able to shop directly from creators without leaving the apps. Users will be able to simply tap to see exactly what creators are wearing and buy it on the spot from the app, and this will be another way of boosting revenue for the app.
Facebook says anyone in their global community will be able to shop from creators. The company will start testing this feature on Instagram with a small group of creators next week, and plans to expand access over time.
Instagram will also have donation sticker in Stories, where users will be able to create a fundraiser. Facebook says that 100 per cent of the money raised on Instagram will go to the nonprofit that is being supported. This will be available in the US for now. The Stories camera on Instagram is getting a new Create Mode, which gives users a way to create a Story without a photo or video. This new camera will make it easier to use popular creative tools like effects and interactive stickers.
F8: What else did Facebook announce?
Facebook has opened pre-orders for its Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S devices, which ship May 21. Both start at $399. Quest is the all-in-one VR gaming system, while Rift S is for those who want an immersive VR experience on their PC.
The Portal video screen device will be made available in Europe later in the fall. WhatsApp will be added to Portal as well and Facebook said they will bring end-to-end encryption to all calls. Portal will also get the ability to send private video messages. More Alexa Skills are being added to Portal, including Flash Briefings, smart home control and the Amazon Prime Video app later this year.
Further users will able to use Facebook Live on Portal as well. The SuperFrame feature which displays favourite photos from Facebook on the Portal screen, will also support an option to show photos from Instagram. The new mobile app will let users add photos to Portal’s Superframe directly from their camera roll, and will roll out later this summer.