Mark Zuckerberg at F8, April 2017
Jon Ford

This week saw the great and good of the world’s social media development community gather in San Jose for Facebook‘s annual developer’s event. The F8 conference serves as a launch pad for the platform’s new features, so here’s a round-up of the features we’ll all be discussing for the next 12 months …

1) AR Studio
What is it?
Facebook has announced it is opening up its Augmented Reality platform to developers. Augmented Reality was most recently seen on the Pokemon Go app and can be summarised as the animations and graphics that are overlaid over your smartphone camera’s view of the world.

Why is it important?
The building blocks of AR are costly to develop. However, by opening up things like their face recognition and mighty processing power to developers, it becomes easier for the global app development community to make creative use of Facebook’s technology without having to make the initial investment

What’s coming next?
Facebook will attempt to ‘own’ AR apps and make Snapchat look like child’s play.

2) Facebook Messenger Moves Toward WeChat Model
What is it?
Facebook’s popular Messenger app is moving toward the model of Chinese app WeChat. Rather than a device full of disparate single function apps, WeChat places all of your functional/lifestyle/accessories/social/commerce applications within one app. Take a sneak preview at what this could mean for users via this excellent video from New York Times.

WeChat Logo

Why is it important?
One app to rule them all: By offering a simple user experience without switching apps, logins or payment methods, Facebook aims to ‘own’ your entire user journey. This means you stay with Facebook for longer, and spend less time with competitors, which overall improves the company’s indirect revenue.

What’s coming next?
Users can engage with different services via a Bot within the Messenger app. As Bots become able to effectively assist users, Facebook Messenger will host the best on a new Discover tab. So, for example, in the future you might plan a trip to the Tokyo Olympics on Messenger in a group chat with yourself, a friend, and bots from hotel, airline and ticketing companies all chipping in to help.

3) Instagram Launches Offline Mode
What is it?
Facebook-owned Instagram now works offline for Android. As with Facebook, users can like, comment and engage with previously uploaded material while offline, all of which is saved to update the next time they’re online. Which is great news for people who travel underground to work, or for the millions upon millions in territories with developing mobile data networks.

Why is it important?
Like the Facebook Lite app (already popular in 2G mobile data networks), this helps Facebook gain ground in countries such as India.

What’s coming next?
The continuing advance of Instagram and Instagram Stories toward the title of second biggest social network

4) Next Level Virtual Reality with Facebook Spaces
What is it?
Facebook Spaces is a new product that aims to move VR from “ooh that’s cool” through an enhanced gaming experience, toward the valuable sector of social interaction.

Facebook Spaces

Why is it important?
Messaging friends and contacts from a variety of devices is now the norm for many. Skype has rapidly become a way of life in digitally developed territories, especially for remote grandparents. The launch of Facebook Spaces aims to take this social experience and enhance it within a realistic, 360 degree space

What’s coming next?
Create a VR profile avatar, play games with friends, share photos, chat via video call.
All well and good… as long as you (both) have Oculus Rift VR headsets (currently retailing at £750+), which will be the main barrier to entry for most.

5) Plenty Of Cool New Tech
What is it?
Facebook’s ‘Building 8‘ Research & Development lab has turned up a few exciting morsels. Would you want to simply think an email and it appears on screen? How about hearing sound via a wearable sleeve? These are just two of the pieces of innovation Facebook showed off this week.

Why is it important?
With Facebook recently accused of ripping off Snapchat, CEO Mark Zuckerberg may claim not to be fussed, but Facebook still seems keen to flex its innovation muscles, and lead the way.

What’s coming next?
Who knows? Once the brain can type, it can give instructions. And once your brain can give instructions you may never have to lift a finger again …

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