Day one of Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, kicked off Tuesday morning.
There was an air of uncertainty and unease hanging over this year’s event, as Facebook has come under fire for its handling of user privacy and its role spreading fake news and propaganda during the 2016 US presidential election.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg came out swinging, though, striking a far more confident tone than during his testimony in front of Congress last month, promising to fix the flaws in the social network but vowing to “keep building.”
The biggest product news of the event was Facebook’s decision to offer its own online dating service, but there were plenty of other announcements and updates on everything from the Oculus VR platform to Facebook’s dueling messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp.
Here’s how it all went down (scroll all the way to the bottom and then scroll up to start from the beginning of the event in chronological order):
11: 57 a.m. PT: And that’s a wrap.
After two hours, day one of the 2018 F8 is finished. Now the company will host hundreds of breakouts sessions with the thousands of developers in attendance, and there will be another set of more technical keynotes on Wednesday morning.
11.54 a.m. PT: Facebook will use your videos to build virtual-reality worlds.
A head-spinning preview from Facebook: The company will use your existing videos to build virtual-reality versions of the locations they were filmed. It might use decades old-footage to create a VR version of a childhood home.
11.49 a.m. PT: Facebook will be streaming sports games, concerts, and comedy nights in virtual reality.
Facebook is adding another string to its virtual-reality bow: Live events, under the umbrella Oculus Venues. These will include sports games, music concerts, and comedy nights. It’s unclear how they will be priced.
11.47 a.m. PT: Board games are coming to virtual reality.
Oculus is also teaming up with board game companies to make VR versions of their games that can be played with friends – including classics like Boggle, Monopoly, and Trivial Pursuit.
11.43 a.m. PT: Oculus Go is launching with 1,000 apps and “experiences.”
Facebook VP of VR Hugo Barra talks about the Oculus Go release, saying it will launch with 1,000 apps, games, and experiences available in its apps tore. It’s also launching Oculus TV to watch video content in virtual reality, partnering with Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, Showtime, and others.
11.39 a.m. PT: Facebook talks up its developers.
Facebook exec Ime Archibong butters up Facebook’s developer base in a short speech, touting numbers about how fast it’s grown, where it’s going next, and the importance of the international developer community.
“The future of our tech, the future of our industry, is not going to be built here in California,” he tells the crowd.
11.28 a.m. PT: We just got our first look at a redesigned Messenger app.
Before leaving the stage, David Marcus teases an upcoming redesign of Messenger. It features customised chats, effects on messages, and a night mode. So when is it launching, David?
11:23 a.m. PT: Facebook is adding language-translation features to Messenger.
Messenger boss David Marcus announces that Messenger is adding language-translating features to Messenger, meaning, in theory, you’ll be able to hold real-time conversations with people who speak different languages.
Of course, this will all depend on how accurate the translation is. And Marcus did not provide many details about how it works, which languages will be supported or when it will be available.
11:19 a.m. PT: There are now 300,000 active “bots” on Messenger
That’s up from 100,000 bots last year, Marcus says.
11:15 a.m. PT: It’s Messenger time.
David Marcus is wearing his customary lightning bolt T-shirt as he sings the gospel of Facebook’s other big messaging product, Messenger.
11:12 a.m: Group calling and stickers for WhatsApp.
There’s a flurry of new features coming to WhatsApp. Group video chats. Third-party sticker apps. And, most important for Facebook’s bottom line, new tools for big businesses to access the platform and handle large numbers of messages. But overall it’s a largely subdued recap, which makes sense; the American audience is far less familiar with WhatsApp than the rest of the world.
11.10 a.m. PT: WhatsApp Stories is the biggest Stories product in the world.
Snapchat may have created the Stories format, but WhatsApp has taken the idea and used its scale to dominate.
WhatsApp Stories is big. Real big. How big? It has 450 million daily users – making it the most popular Stories product in the world. That’s how big.
11.04 a.m. PT: Instagram is cracking down on bullying.
Instagram is launching a new automatic “bullying filter” that hides “language intended to harass or upset people.”
10:57 a.ma. : CELEBRITY INSTAGRAM DOG ONSTAGE.
JiffPom apparently has more than 8 million followers on Instagram. The furry fellow took the stage to help Instagram demonstrate some of the new AR features.
10:56 a.m. PT: It’s Instagram time.
First off, some new augmented-reality features for Instagram. Developers and pages will be able to create custom AR filters that are available only to their followers.
10.55 a.m. PT: Facebook wants your blood.
Facebook is rolling out features around blood donation, Cox says, after seeing large uptake of its existing features. Some 8 million people are registered as a blood donor on the platform already.
Cox also discussed some new “Crisis Response” features, allowing users in emergency situations like earthquakes to add commentary in addition to declaring that they’re safe.
10.52 a.m. PT: More details on Facebook’s new dating app.
Facebook exec Chris Cox shares more detail on Facebook’s new dating app.
Users will have to opt in, their profiles aren’t visible to their friends, and won’t post to the Newsfeed or elsewhere. It’s focused around groups and events, and users start a conversation by selecting one of their match’s photos. Messaging is separate to Messenger and WhatsApp.
10.49 a.m. PT: Facebook is adding ‘live commenting.’
Facebook is adding a slightly left-field feature: “Live commenting” on videos. This means people will be able to appear in a bubble alongside videos and narrate them in real time. Time will tell if it catches on.
10.45 a.m. PT: Facebook is opening up the Stories format to third-party developers.
Facebook will let third-party apps post to users’ stories in Instagram and Facebook, Cox announces. A user might post songs they’re listening to on Spotify to their Instagram story, and their friends will then be able to click through to the song. It’s currently in beta.
10.41: Facebook is introducing Reddit-style unvotes and downvotes.
Cox announces Facebook is adding upvotes and downvotes to comments, Reddit style, which will affect how comments are displayed.
10.40 a.m. PT: Chief product officer Chris Cox is onstage.
Zuckerberg’s keynote is over, and chief product officer Chris Cox is now onstage. He’s talking about Facebook’s vision, how he came to join the company, and changes they have been making recently.
“We will keep building!”
Mark Zuckerberg ends on an almost defiant note, declaring to the crowds: “We will keep building!”
“We need to keep this idea alive, and that is what we are all here at F8 to do together. So yes, this is an important moment and we need to do more to keep people safe and we will. But we also need to keep building and bringing the world closer together!’
Oculus Go is shipping today.
Facebook’s new standalone VR headset, Oculus Go, is shipping today. It starts at $US199, compared to $US399 for the existing Oculus headset, which requires a high-end PC to use.
And everyone at the F8 conference is getting a free one, Zuck announces. Raucous applause ensues.
10.30 a.m. PT: Facebook is shaking up its messaging platforms.
A bevvy of announcements about Facebook’s messaging platforms: WhatsApp is getting video calls and building tools for large businesses to use the service; and Messenger is getting a simplified redesign, and augmented-reality camera tools.
10.26 a.m. PT: Mark Zuckerberg thanks outgoing WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum.
Yesterday, on the eve of F8, WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum announced we was leaving the company, four yeas after it was acquired by Facebook.
Onstage, Zuckerberg thanks Koum for his service, calling him “a tireless advocate for privacy and encryption.” (The Washington Post reported that Koum was leaving amid tensions with Facebook execs over encryption.)
10.23 a.m. PT: Now on to Instagram.
After the bombshell about Facebook dating, it’s on to Instagram. The photo app is redesigning its Explore tab, Zuckerberg says, and it is launching video chat – a potential rival to Apple’s FaceTime.
10:18 a.m.: Zuckerberg used his recent grilling in Congress as a humorous way to tout the new “Watch Party” feature
“Let’s say your friend is testifying in Congress … you can laugh together, cry together. Some of my friends actually did this! Let’s not do that again any time soon.”
10.22 a.m. PT: FACEBOOK IS BECOMING A DATING APP
Facebook will be integrating a feature for online dating directly into its main social-networking app. The feature, called Dating Home, will be opt-in and accessible by clicking on a small heart icon in the top right of the Facebook app.
Lest you get the wrong idea, though, Zuckerberg says: “This is going to be for building real long-term relationships, not just hookups.”
Zuckerberg seems confident.
Mark Zuckerberg, dressed in a long-sleeved blue T-shirt, is speaking passionately and confidently. He seems far more fluent and at ease than at his congressional testimony last month, even as he discusses much of the same subject. There’s even a joke or two!
10:08 a.m.: Zuckerberg talks about integrity of elections.
“In 2016 we were slow to identify Russian interference,” Zuckerberg says.
Zuckerberg explains that the company was anticipating phishing attacks and other types of threats. But says the company did not expect “coordinated attacks” from networks of fake accounts.
“I sat down with our team afterwards and said we will never be unprepared for this again.”
10.06 a.m. PT: Mark Zuckerberg makes the case for Facebook’s importance.
After recapping the challenges Facebook has faced – fake news, Russian interference, and so on – Zuck makes the case for Facebook’s importance to the world. Before it was founded, he said, “You could find almost anything [online] except the thing that matters to us most: people.”
10.04 a.m.: Big news right out the gate.
Facebook is reopening app reviews for developers. It faced some heavy criticism from the developer community over the moratorium that it hastily implemented as it scrambled to do damage control following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
ZUCK TAKES STAGE
“This has been an intense year. I can’t believe we’re only four months in.”
9.55 a.m. PT: Pseudo-rave tech-conference vibes abound.
It’s less than five minutes until the Zuck is scheduled to take the stage. House music pounds, smoke machines quietly emit vapour, bright lights (in Facebook’s trademark blue, of course) roam the hall , visuals quietly morph onstage – creating a the atmosphere of a peculiarly sterile and subdued rave. Typical tech conference vibes, in other words.
9:48 a.m. PT: Mark Zuckerberg is ruining the surprise.
Mark Zuckerberg has taken the wind out of this keynote slightly – by revealing many of the big announcements early. Facebook will allow users to erase their browsing history, for example, a major concession to privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
9:00 am PT: The lines to get in were already long when we got there.
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