Last week I had the opportunity to attend F8, Facebook’s Developer Conference in San Jose, California. Over the course of two days, we learned about various product updates and how Facebook is addressing some of their biggest challenges. I always leave the conference feeling inspired and more knowledgeable about what’s happening inside Facebook. Here’s my top learnings and observations from Facebook’s biggest event:
Facebook is committed to privacy and safety
This was the overall theme of the conference which was introduced during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech. He explained that while Facebook was built as an equivalent to a digital town square – they have a new challenge to address: privacy. Just like in real life – where we have private and public spaces – Mark believes the future of their platform should focus on the private side of social media, and he wants to change the way the company currently operates.
He explained that privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves, whether that be through an interaction with friends and small groups in messenger or stories or through the ability to send simple and secure payments or via privately sharing your location with friends. The center of our social experience on Facebook’s suite of apps should be more intimate and they are committed to building products that will align with this, with the biggest announcement being that all messaging across their apps will now include end-to-end encryption. This means that no one will have access to what you say and do — including governments and Facebook itself.
Facebook is focused on community
Facebook wants to make your communities as central as your friends. They announced a new redesign of both the desktop and mobile app which makes your Facebook Groups the heart of your experience. When you login to Facebook now you’ll see a “Groups” Tab right next to your notifications tab to easily connect with the communities you’re a part of but also find new communities based on your interests. Mark explained that this is the biggest redesign they’ve implemented in the past 5 years.
Instagram updates including a new donation tool
Adam Mousseri, Head of Instagram, took the stage to discuss new updates coming to Instagram. He explained that IG Stories puts people and privacy first, with feedback and likes being private to the account owner, which creates a space that is less pressurized. He announced that they are testing private likes in the Instagram feed where only the owner could see the metrics, just like IG stories. Everyone in the audience was quite excited about this, myself included. With likes being open to the public, it creates a feeling of competition on the app. I’ve always felt it should be more about sharing and creating without feeling like you need to achieve likes. Another big update was the announcement of Instagram’s new donation sticker that gives users an easy and seamless way to raise money for causes.
Spark AR Studio is a place for everyone
In another session, Matt Hanson, Spark AR Design Manager, talked about how the platform is quickly evolving and opening up exciting new use cases for businesses and consumers. Matt announced that in the last year, 1 Billion people are using AR experiences on Facebook!
He introduced a Berlin artist, Johanna Jaskowska, who became insta-famous for creating the Beauty 3000 Instagram filter through the Spark AR studio. The most fascinating part to me was that she’s an artist and not your typical developer. Ultimately, Spark AR is a platform for anyone to create – with no formal training. Right now, Instagram makes it somewhat difficult to unlock these creator-made filters as you need to follow the creator in order for their lenses to appear in your IG filter carousel. Therefore, if you don’t know who these creators are – you won’t have any way of accessing their custom filters. However, it sounds like in the future it will be much easier to upload these custom filters which will open up many more creative uses of the app – especially for nonprofits and charities that want people to get involved with their causes.
Speaking of AR – upon registering for F8, each attendee was given instructions for how to unlock AR experiences around the convention center. Using the IG story camera, you could unlock a special filter that would allow different signs to come to life across the convention center. Check out what it did to this flat sheet of paper!
3D “lifelike” avators are coming to VR
I demoed Facebook Spaces, Facebook’s social VR product, a few years ago at F8. I met up with different people in a virtual world but their avatars were very cartoon-like which made it feel more like a game than simulating real life. During the keynote on the second day of this year’s F8, they revealed new 3D avatars which are so lifelike you feel like you’re sitting right there next to the person. See a video here. The lifelike avatars are only accessible through fingerprint and facial recognition to prevent other people from acting as you. With these new avatars – it feels like AR & VR can be a part of everyday life. You can work, meet and play with someone in a virtual world and feel truly present.
In the photo above, Lindsey Young, Product Manager at OculusVR, described her weekly virtual session with her mom where they sit next to each other in their virtual living room and watch Red Table Talk. Lindsey also talked about virtual live events where thousands of people meet up in VR, and live moderators act like stadium security to ensure safety in these virtual worlds. Much to our delight, we learned that every F8 participant would be receiving the new Oculus Quest which is wireless and WiFi enabled. My colleague Julia, who is based in NYC, and I are going to start using it for our meetings to test it out.
“Women of F8” breakfast was everything we needed and more
As an offshoot event, F8 hosted a “Women of F8” breakfast on the last day of the conference where Fidji Simo, Head of Facebook’s app, was interviewed. She delivered a powerful message to women – describing her experience as a woman in tech, often times the only woman in the room. She explained her process for getting promoted and moving up the ladder at Facebook. Her progression was not incredibly deliberate and was more about anticipating what the company needed and how she could be helpful – which at times meant stepping up when people were out of the office. She advised to always have an ongoing talk with your manager and be aligned on what it would take to get promoted to the next level.
My favorite quote of hers was in response to sexism in tech. She spoke about the need for women in tech to be dialed in but that it shouldn’t lead to being discouraged. While mentoring young women in her hometown, someone asked “Is it even worth trying to get a job in tech?” She responded “The topic of sexism shouldn’t deliver a message to women that it’s not worth trying to work in tech. Instead, we need to communicate that the culture is changing and that there are communities of women like you that are here to help you.”
While I could go on and on about all the learnings from F8, there are just too many to list for one blog post. While I know it’s been a challenging year, I am still so in awe of Facebook’s technology advancements and how they are using their products for good. Huge thanks to Facebook for a great two days of learning and inspiration!