Last night, Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage of Facebook’s annual summit, F8, to unveil a series of products aimed at restoring faith in the embattled social network. In his first public appearance since testifying to lawmakers in Washington last month, Zuckerberg stressed the company’s ambitions to improve privacy, support meaningful relationships and make it easier for people to communicate through its platforms. Here’s a summary of the key announcements.
Just over an hour before the event kicked off, Zuckerberg unveiled plans to give users control of the data Facebook gathers about them from other websites and apps.
Through a new tool dubbed “clear history”, the social network will provide people with information generated by companies that use its ads and analytics tools. It will let users clear the information and prevent Facebook from continuing to link newly-generated browsing data to their accounts. “This is an example of the kind of control we think you should have”, said Zuckerberg. “It’s something privacy advocates have been asking for – and we will work with them to make sure we get it right.”
The eye of a privacy storm might appear to be an unlikely place from which to launch a dating service, but that’s exactly what Facebook plans to do. Zuckerberg says the match-making feature harks back to the company’s commitment to meaningful relationships. It will recommend potential dates based on mutual interests, presumably in an attempt to prove that the benefits of sharing your data with the company extend beyond just better targeted ads. Tinder-owner Match Group’s shares closed 22 per cent below their opening price in light of the news.
While not a major technological feat, the creation of a groups tab signals Facebook’s ambition to help people with shared interests form communities. Again, this comes back to the company’s commitment to supporting more meaningful relationships. With the News Feed bearing the brunt of criticism in recent months, the social network’s executives will also be hoping groups offer people another reason to visit its core platform, rather than just Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
Re-opening the app review process
Facebook has decided to re-open its app review process following a brief pause in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Apps that require access to specialised APIs or extended login permissions will need to be verified from now. But Facebook said this would not apply to apps that require access to basic profile information or additional permissions such as birthdays and friend lists.
Sharing to “Stories”
Stories might not have taken off on Facebook in the same they did on Instagram, but the firm isn’t giving up on the feature just yet. Soon, users will be able to capture screenshots from other apps such as Spotify and add them directly to Stories on either platform simply by tapping a share button.
Facebook wants to make it easier for people to buy items through its marketplace from those whose default language is different to their own. If a user receives a Marketplace message in a foreign language, M will offer a translation. The feature is due to launch in the US for English-Spanish conversations.
Brands that use Messenger for marketing will soon be able to integrate AR camera effects into conversations with customers. Potential use-cases include letting users customise or try-on merchandise, Facebook said.
Facebook has traditionally been more cautious when it comes to monetising WhatsApp, which it acquired for £19bn in 2014, than its Messenger platform. This year’s F8 suggests little has changed on that front. While the social network unveiled a range of new Messenger features for brands, WhatsApp is getting just two updates – both of which are aimed at users. WhatsAppers will soon be able to use stickers and launch group calls – and that’s it.
Instagram users will soon be able to carry out both one-on-one and group video chats through the app. The app’s developers are also redesigning the Explore feature to organise content into specific topic channels.
Finally, Facebook is bringing its augmented reality camera platform to Instagram, so creators can design unique face filters and world effects.
Facebook made Oculus’s first standalone VR headset available globally yesterday. It boasts more than a thousand apps, games and experiences at launch and costs $199.