May 7, 2019
Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference is our opportunity to look beneath the hood on new features and functionality that Facebook is delivering. Where are they going? What does that mean to us? And, how are our feeds going to look? Questions framed around these topics are asked by media and consumers around the time of F8.
But to understand the direction of this year’s conference, we have to look back to March 2018 – a time when three news organisations simultaneously published news surrounding the data breach scandal between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. An article that resulted in more than $100billion wiped off of Facebook’s share price. Followed by Zuckerberg having to face US politicians, and also answer the demands from the UK on what was going to happen following the data scandal.
A year on, this year’s F8 conference is quite clear that data, privacy, and security is really core to where Facebook is going. In fact, these fundamental changes all point towards Facebook trying to combat a year of controversy by evolving privacy and security settings.
Recently there’s been an outcry about newsfeeds becoming cluttered with brand content, so Facebook is pushing hard to help people connect with close friends and family by redesigning its platform. The redesign focuses on groups and events, allowing users to display content that they want to see. According to Facebook, this is going to allow us to actually connect or meet new, like-minded people who perhaps have similar interests or common ground. Maybe, for example, they went to the same university or school, or are members of the same club.
It’s all virtual
One of the big questions we regularly get asked is around virtual reality. Is VR going to become mainstream? Or is VR still at a point where it is still a little bit gimmicky? Well, Facebook’s play into Oculus some years ago suggested that the social media giant believed there was the ability to deliver scale. Some people have had it, some people have experienced it, and many are yet to do either. But Facebook is enhancing their proposition with Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S which are two new headsets that replace external tracking cameras with a much more user-friendly inside-out system. Although still quite pricey at $400, shipping from the 21st May to 22 countries, it remains to be seen whether Facebook is really going to realise the scale from this opportunity.
For about a year there’s been news rumbling around that Facebook wants to go after the Tinder audience. Well, their proposition has evolved again. At F8, Facebook announced that dating is expanding to 14 countries and it’s introduced a feature called Secret Crush, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It remains to be seen whether this is going to be revealed in a positive light and capitalised on in a way that Tinder grew, or whether this is a step towards some of that intrusive behaviour that Facebook has been working hard to eradicate.
It’s quite evident that there’s a lot more to come in the next few months, and all of that evolution is going to be around privacy and security if Facebook continues to battle harsh public criticism. But, this year’s F8 developer conference hasn’t really told us anything we weren’t expecting to see, in truth. Privacy and security. A year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, some would say it’s a little overdue.