From technological innovation to data security, Facebook continues moving forward and continues highlighting the growing opportunities while addressing the responsibilities of conversational business.
As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage to give his 11th annual F8 Developer Conference opening keynote, before outlining the next wave of new features set to delight the network’s 2.13 billion-strong user base, he went straight to the heart of the matter that has been plaguing the tech titan in recent months: Cambridge Analytica.
And, on the subject, he did not mince his words.
“What happened was a major breach of trust,” said Zuckerburg. “An app developer took data that people had shared with him and sold it. We need to make sure that this never happens again.”
Facebook is putting privacy and data protection at the top of its list of priorities and will proactively sift out bad actors using a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, human monitoring and ethics.
“By the end of this year, we will have 20,000 people working on security and content review at Facebook,” Zuckerberg explained.
But while F8 presented Zuckerberg the opportunity to regain the trust of Facebook users following his hearing before the US Congress, the two-day conference is primarily a platform for announcing the latest innovations that Facebook is deploying or getting ready to deploy over the next 12 months.
The first big change is to allow all users, regardless of their geographical location, to manage their data security settings. Called the “Apps Settings Reminder” function and Introduced to conform with the GDPR, which officially goes into effect May 25, it gives users a complete view of all apps linked to their account and enables them to disable and delete the ones they no longer want. Adding to this is a Clear History button that will let users go through and delete data collected on them from sites that use Facebook’s ads and analytics tools.
Facebook is now officially into online dating.
“There are 200 million people on Facebook that list themselves as single, so clearly there’s something to do here,” said Zuckerberg, wiping as much as 19 percent off the share prices of everyone from Meetic and Match to Tinder in the process.
However, rather than swiping right, Facebook promises that its approach will be about fostering long-term relationships.
“It’s not just about hook-ups,” he continued, pointing out that the service will have privacy baked in, with users being able to hide their dating profile from friends and from the newsfeed. Even messaging potential dates will be via a separate, secure service not linked to any of Facebook’s other properties (ie WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram).
…But always be social
Facebook is renewing its role in the community. Many of the new features set to launch put groups of people front and center. For instance, a new tab that makes finding and managing groups users already belong to easier, also facilitates discovering new groups. Then there’s Watch Party that lets groups of people watch a video together and comment on it, live.
Over on Instagram, the Explore section is being overhauled so users can easily organize and access content and suggestions around topics and interests. The image-based social network is also getting its own video chat feature that will stand out from a host of other apps thanks to the fact it will come with an AR-enriched camera function.
WhatsApp and Messenger: the definitive digital tools for conversational marketing?
WhatsApp, an app that under Jan Koum’s watch managed to resist commercialization, is getting ready for business. It already supports chatbots and now the platform is opening up to businesses of all sizes who want to use social channels to engage with their customers. Like for Facebook Messenger, those organizations that want to take advantage of the new features will have access to a suite of tools that enable group calls and custom stickers to test WhatsApp’s business potential. One of the first brands to take the plunge is Sephora, which was invited by Facebook to be an early-stage tester.
And while WhatsApp’s features start to swell, Messenger is going back to basics with a redesign to unclutter the user interface to make the finding of new or relevant features friction-free. The most exciting of these new features could be an Augmented Reality (AR) integration. Companies of any size will now be able to use the Camera Effects Platform to integrate AR into their Messenger experience.
Facebook hopes these new features will help customers visualize a product or service before buying it and therefore shorten the length of the path to purchase.
The Messenger platform is now home to 300,000 chatbots and 8 billion monthly conversations between brands and consumers – and this number is expected to grow with the introduction of M Translations. It will initially offer real-time translation between English and Spanish (and vice versa) and is a first step towards letting a business based anywhere in the world connect with a potential customer from potentially any country (other languages are set to be added as the platform matures).
“Facebook is really bringing the Messenger platform’s business capabilities to the fore,” says Geoffrey Boulakia, General Manager EMEA TSC, Sitel Group’s Digital CX agency. “Messenger is becoming a real customer care and customer conversion tool and these updates have clearly been developed with taking its commercial capabilities to the next level.”
Download the TSC White Paper: Understanding Chatbots
VR goes mainstream with Oculus Go
Facebook promised a new device and with Oculus Go, it delivered. A mobile virtual reality (VR) headset that will cost just $199 yet boasts the best available optical lenses on the market – and at that price point, it arrives with over 1,000 apps.
In addition to being more affordable, Facebook hopes this headset will make VR more mainstream. And as well as the device, it announced Oculus TV, a channel with VR content from partners including Netflix, Showtime and ESPN, and Oculus Venus, a VR streaming service for events such as live soccer matches or concerts.
As such, the 2018 F8 Developer Conference was one where innovation shared the limelight with security and a renewed commitment to building and maintaining trust with users, developers and Facebook partners now and in the years to come.
“Facebook is absolutely right to highlight trust, particularly in terms of developers,” explains Geoffrey Boulakia. “Some of the new features announced today will only be accessible to the firm’s trusted partners. This is to ensure they are used only for delivering added value, and because Facebook does not want anything to dent its growing reputation as a business tool.”