Facebook is in a product funk, with no big hits since the “Like” button in April 2010.
But this Thursday at its F8 conference in San Francisco, the company has a chance to wow the crowds of developers and press, and set Facebook back on course to its goal of becoming the first trillion-dollar company.
Facebook is on a companywide push for the big day — platform director Katie Mitic looked physically exhausted when I mentioned F8 to her last week, and other execs are calling it the biggest F8 ever.
So what’s on tap? Here’s everything we have heard and read about Facebook’s plans for F8.
There will be a music service that allows users to share what they're playing, and a lot of big online music services will be involved.
This one has been reported for months -- Om Malik broke the news and gave some pretty detailed information about the service in June, and subsequent rumours have backed him up.
Apparently there will be a new Music tab on the left side of the screen -- where the Photos, Friends, and other tabs are today -- and it will take users to a new music dashboard on a redesigned Profile page.
On that dashboard, users wil be able to listen to music from any of Facebook's partner services, which are almost certain to include Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, MOG, Vevo (for music video) plus some other smaller players. Users will be able to recommend songs, see what their friends have been listening to, and listen to any song with a click. There may also be concert ticketing or other features.
It's not clear how billing and pricing will work -- users might have to subscribe to the services first, or might be able to buy or subscribe using Facebook Credits (Facebook would presumably take a cut).
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the music service is only one part of a broader media platform that will also let users share movies and TV shows.
Forbes reported back in July that Facebook is getting into the news business. The company is working with news outlets like CNN, The Daily, and The Washington Post to create special editions that can be read entirely within Facebook.
The company is using the unofficial motto 'Read. Watch. Listen' to sum up all these changes, according to AllThingsD.
There will also be new Read, Watched, and Listened buttons to let users comment on the content they've consumed, reports TechCrunch, and maybe eventually a Want button to let people buy content their friends have looked at -- which would tie in nicely with Facebook's stated interest in e-commerce. It's not clear what will happen to the Like button everybody uses today.
This content will all be delivered through Profile pages, which are getting a major redesign, according to multiple reports. The pages will apparently feature a live ticker to keep everybody informed about what their friends are reading, watching, and listening to -- similar to the ticker Facebook introduced for game updates last month.
So how will users buy all this stuff?
Look for the company to extend Facebook Credits well beyond in-game purchases, and maybe even launch a content store like Apple's iTunes.
There could also be a mobile element: earlier this summer, MG Siegler of TechCrunch uncovered something called Project Spartan, which looks like a mobile app store that would work in Safari and other mobile browsers. The implications of this are pretty huge -- basically, this would let Facebook create an app store that would work on any phone and take a cut of every transaction that flows through it, cutting Apple, Google and other app store operators out. Siegler reports that this project might not make the cut for F8, though.
It may also tie in with the next app from Bill Nguyen's heavily funded startup, colour. Last month MG Siegler discovered that Nguyen was testing what looks like a new photos app with deep ties to Facebook.
Facebook did something unusual recently -- it introduced a new iPhone app called Facebook Messenger just for group messaging. Previously, all new features were added directly to the main Facebook app.
It's possible that Facebook will continue this trend at F8, rolling out a bunch of new special-purpose mobile apps.
Facebook confirmed to the BBC that users will 'soon' be able to feed their status updates directly into a related Twitter profile -- a feature that was previously limited to professional Facebook Pages, which are used for brands and celebrities.
There are already third-party apps that do this, but apparently Facebook will now offer this feature itself.
About a year ago, SAI's Dan Frommer heard rumours from well-placed sources that Facebook was working on its own mobile phone platform. It would be based on a fork of Android, and would feature Facebook's own app store. The project is being run by Erick Tseng (shown here), who Facebook poached from Google's Android team.
Since then, those rumours have all but died out, replaced by rumours of a browser-based HTML5 platform that would work on any smartphone OS with a modern browser.
But if Facebook really wants to blow minds, a new mobile phone platform would do the trick.
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