Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the company’s developer conference today by saying the event, called F8, would focus less on product announcements and more on serving the developer community. And then he dove in and detailed a number of the social network’s new features, products, and updates. Here’s a roundup of what was announced:
Messenger additions: As expected, Facebook is opening up its Messenger chat app to third-party integrations. “Over the last couple years, we’ve been building Messenger into a service that can help you express yourself in many more ways beyond simple text messages,” Zuckerberg said. A week ago, the company announced a feature that will let people use the app to send money to friends. Now it’s also talking about integrating GIF apps into the platform—something David Marcus, who runs the Messenger division, sounds particularly excited about. “I don’t know about you, but I find GIFs to be really awesome,” Marcus said when he took the stage at today’s event. “They just make the world a little bit better.”
Messenger Business: Integrating Messenger with businesses such as online retailers will provide a direct channel for communicating with customers in real time. In a demo, Marcus walked through the process: At an online retailer’s checkout page, a shopper would see an option to receive shipping notifications and receipts over Messenger. If it’s accepted, Facebook would match the user’s profile to the order. (Yes, this means Facebook would be able to connect shoppers’ identities to their purchases.) Because all communications—receipts, shipping, customer support—would occur in a single thread, the retailer would be able to streamline any changes to the orders, and customers would be able to make additional purchases directly through the app by hitting a big, blue, thumbs-up button on Messenger.
Enhanced plug-ins for embedded videos and comments: As Facebook video grows—it’s currently at 3 billion views per day—it’s working to further exposure. One of its new plug-ins would let users embed videos with a single line of code. As for the comments plug-in, new updates would make it easy to carry conversations that occur on news sites that use Facebook comments, such as the Huffington Post, back to the social network. “For publishers, this means much greater engagement in media,” said Deborah Liu, who oversees the Facebook platform.
Spherical videos: Zuckerberg said both Facebook’s news feed and Oculus will support spherical videos, which are filmed with multiple cameras and offer a more immersive viewing experience.
Facebook Analytics for Apps: The free tool makes it easy for developers to understand how people are using their apps across devices, and provides a barometer for the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. The Facebook mobile team, for example, used these insights to improve the search bar, and after one year the changes it made helped triple the number of mobile searches.
LiveRail: In addition to managing video ad inventory, LiveRail will also let developers make money off mobile display ads.
Parse for the Internet of Things: Ilya Sukhar, founder of Parse (the developer platform that Facebook acquired in 2013) said the company was releasing new tools to help programmers build apps for connected devices. As it has in the past, Parse will take care of the backend—including app analytics, sending push notifications to people at the right time, and collecting crash data—so developers only have to focus on building their apps.