Long-awaited by Facebook ecosystem developers, the F8 conference is an opportunity for the Menlo Park firm and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to present their latest product innovations, as the social network turns 15 this year.
New features for Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram are on the menu this year, but also hardware equipment with Portal screens and Oculus virtual reality headsets.
Facebook is focusing on personal relationships…
The number one social network is getting a makeover! Beyond the color change, the website’s ergonomics has been completely revamped with a menu bar allowing access to platform’s main features. News feed, notifications, videos, stories, marketplace and Messenger are now very easily accessible.
With more than 400 million users, the app is also affected and leverages these changes to focus on groups. A tab in the app is now dedicated to them, in order to better highlight this feature, which now has its own news feed while recommending groups that may be of interest to users.
… and continues its conquest of the dating market
Remember when Facebook launched its dating service in 2018? Determined to tread on the toes of Match.com and Tinder, and already present in Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina and Mexico, the Menlo Park giant continues to expand by deploying “Facebook Dating” in 14 new countries. However, no information concerning its availability in France has yet been shared.
The conference was an opportunity to announce “Secret Crush”, a new feature for its dating service. A Facebook Dating user may express his or her secret interest in a person; if the crush is reciprocal, both users concerned will be notified. Tinder had better keep an eye out!
Messenger: lighter, faster, more open
2 billion—this is the combined number of users on Messenger and Whatsapp, the 2 messaging systems in the group: it is therefore normal that they are the focus of Facebook’s attention.
Thus, as presented by Asha Sharma, Head of Messenger, the group’s No. 2 messaging system is getting a makeover in a 4th version. For the occasion, the mobile application was completely redesigned with the aim of improving user experience. Lighter (it now weighs less than 30 MB, or 20% of the current weight) and faster, (starting time has been reduced to 1.3 seconds), it will also be more open since it will be possible to communicate with its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram contacts from the same interface.
The messaging will also be usable from a Windows and MacOS computer using native applications for these platforms.
WhatsApp’s new business-oriented features
Since the launch of Business Profiles last year, WhatsApp has become a new channel for small merchants, offering them the opportunity to communicate more flexibly and less formally with their customers. This year, Facebook plans to add a payment feature (already successfully tested in India) and a catalogue to promote products.
With these new tools at their disposal, merchants will then have an additional channel to optimize their sales.
Instagram takes on the eCommerce challenge
As we have known for several months, Instagram was testing the possibility of buying products directly from its application. On Tuesday, Adam Mosseri – head of the Instagram platform, made a new announcement: mobile users will be able to shop directly from the account of their favourite influencers. If they like an outfit, they just have to tap on the picture to find the exact brand of the clothes they are wearing and purchase them in a few clicks!
The photo sharing platform will also allow donations to be collected via a dedicated sticker in the Stories (photos and ephemeral videos): an excellent opportunity for charities seeking to reach a wider and younger audience.
Europe: next stop for connected screens
Do you know Portal? This is Facebook’s answer to Google, Amazon and Apple’s vocal assistants!
Equipped with a screen, a camera and animated by Amazon’s Alexa assistant, the intelligent Portal screen has until now been reserved for the United States and only compatible with Messenger video conversations. From now on, it will allow you to chat on WhatsApp, broadcast Facebook Live videos or flash news, while managing your connected home.
It should be noted that Facebook plans to launch its two screens Portal and Portal+ in Europe and the rest of the world this fall.
New VR features
Menlo Park continues to invest in VR. After the acquisition of Oculus and the successful launch of the Go and Rift helmets as well as the Oculus Venues channel offering numerous VR programs, Mark Zuckerberg took advantage of the F8 to announce two new VR headset models. The Quest (autonomous mask) and Rift S (device that requires a computer) are already available for pre-order (starting at $399) and will be shipped starting May 21. It remains to be seen whether sales will perform and allow Facebook to become a key player in the VR market.
“The future is private”
As Apple likes to repeat, respect for user privacy is always at the heart of its concerns. This is also the case for Facebook, which insisted throughout the conference on the issues of respect for users and their data. Today, the former Harvard student is displaying a true “privacy company”: product and service design, technological infrastructure choices, interface design, all the teams are mobilized on these subjects in their daily activities, in an approach that reminds us of the concept of “ Privacy by Design” dear to the GDPR.
With its advertising services, its increasingly sophisticated targeting capabilities, its algorithms for recommending highly effective individuals and groups, will Mark Zuckerberg’s company succeed in meeting the challenges of protecting its user data, which is the very essence of the services and products it offers?
Until we have the answer to this great question, we only have a few months left before we can test all these new features.