Decoding Facebook F8 keynote announcements

This has been a rather eventful year for Facebook, but that didn’t hold back CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the keynote on the first day of the annual F8 conference. Despite the ongoing struggles with data privacy on the social network, Facebook has made a bunch of announcements about product updates and the direction the company is taking.

“We’re investing a lot to address these issues and keep people safe, but we also have a responsibility to move forward on everything else that our community expects from us too. The hardest decision that I made this year wasn’t to invest so much in safety and security, that decision was easy. The hard part was figuring out a way to move forward on everything else we need to do too,” said Mark Zuckerberg.

We analyse the announcements and understand how these will impact you as a Facebook user.

As expected, the very first stop is how your Facebook data is handled. The social network has confirmed that it will be rolling out what is known as a “Clear History” option on Facebook. This will allow users to wipe all the usage history on the social network, including browsing history and the “likes” you shared on other users’ posts. While you may believe that this will essentially will wipe all the data Facebook Analytics would have accumulated about you over the years, that isn’t strictly true. “We’ll still provide apps and websites with aggregated analytics. We can do this without storing the information in a way that’s associated with your account, and as always, we don’t tell advertisers who you are,” clarified Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer. There is no specific word on when exactly this feature will be rolled out, but that should happen sometime in the coming weeks.

The Messenger app, over time, has become a massive boat of bloatware. Facebook seems to be realizing that, and is now seems committed to bringing some sense of order back. The interface will be redesigned, to make it look more like an instant messaging app it was envisioned to be, and there will also be a dark mode to take advantage of the OLED screens that are becoming common in smartphones. “When you’re messaging, you really want a simple and fast experience,” Mark Zuckerberg during the F8 keynote before adding, “We’re taking this moment to completely redesign Messenger to focus on these ideas.” All Facebook say at the moment is that the new Messenger is coming “very soon”, and we surely will keep our eyes peeled for that.

Facebook is also partnering with camera maker RED, to develop a professional-grade virtual reality camera system. This will be designed to capture high-resolution imagery in 6DoF, or six degrees of freedom, which allows it to be viewed and explored in virtual reality, in real time. There is no confirmation yet on the pricing of this camera system, or when it’ll actually be available, but it, is a result of Facebook’s Surround 360 platform which will be aimed at filmmakers.

You will soon be able to post 3D photos on your Facebook timeline. No details on how you’ll be able to capture them, or how the feature will work, but it is also expected to roll out sometime in the next few months.

Facebook owned Oculus’ first standalone VR headset is now available for order, with prices starting at $199 (around Rs13,200). The company says there are more than 1000 apps and games available on the platform at launch—including Netflix, Hulu, Discovery VR and more. It looks similar to the phone-based VR headsets such as the Google Daydream, but is standalone and does not require a PC.

The real shocker perhaps is the announcement that Facebook is building a dating platform. The dating platform will be an opt-in feature and will allow people to browse potential matches in groups and even events they will be visiting. Facebook is going after Tinder, but this comes at a time when we are all already debating what all Facebook knows about us, how secure is that personality sketch and how much is too much.

Instagram will soon get AR stickers and filters to Stories, and also the addition to video calling in the Instagram Direct messaging feature. The Explore section is also being redesigned to categorize suggestions according to a user’s interests.

After a rather unfortunate series of events since the Cambridge Analytics data scandal became public knowledge, the social media network has been battling a negative perception, answering calls from users about data security and redoing the controls that it allows users to have, on the Facebook data shared with third party apps. At the F8, the social network seemed to want to move on, and in the process, assure developers that after the recent investigations, they are more than welcome on the platform.livemint