Tomorrow marks the first day of this year's F8, Facebook's annual developer conference, and it promises to be a big one. After all, this is the 10th anniversary of F8, and you know that CEO Mark Zuckerberg will want to show off just how far Facebook has come in the past ten years. Here's a look at what we'll hopefully see in the days ahead.
Facebook traditionally uses F8 to announce new features for its Messenger platform and this year would be no exception. In 2015, Facebook announced that Messenger would be opened to third-party developers, while last year's big launch was around the arrival of chatbots. For 2017, we expect chatbots will continue to be part of the Messenger conversation, and since Facebook has been investing quite a lot in AI, we expect artificial intelligence to be a big part of this as well. The company already rolled out its new "M suggests" personal assistant a couple of weeks ago, so we expect to see more of what M can do going forward.
And then there's the main Facebook app, which the company calls Big Blue. We've seen some big changes to the app over the past year, like the recent introduction of Snapchat-like Stories, so we'll likely see more additions announced at the show. For example, Facebook has been experimenting with an alternate news feed marked with a rocket ship icon for the past few months. It apparently consists of posts and articles from sources you haven't followed, but which Facebook's algorithm thinks you'll like. We expect to hear more about this -- perhaps a formal rollout -- at this week's conference.
Speaking of news, Facebook has struggled with its reputation as a platform for fake news in the past few months, so we expect Zuckerberg to address this in his keynote. The company has made some strides in the area, like helping to flag fake news, posting educational guides on how to spot it and even going so far as to partner with third-party fact-checkers to suss out a story's veracity. Whether or not this has been effective remains to be seen, and it would behoove Zuckerberg and co to provide updates in this area. We also expect Zuckerberg to address the recent use of Facebook Live to stream the murder of a Cleveland resident, and how the company plans to deal with problems like this going forward.
We also expect to see a lot of news around VR beyond just Oculus. As teased at last year's F8 and at Oculus Connect a few months ago, Facebook has been experimenting with Social VR. It'll let you chat with your friends in virtual places around the globe and even take, you guessed it, virtual selfies. We'll probably see some updates to the software and who knows, it might even be ready for consumers to try before the end of the year.
Perhaps the biggest mystery announcement surrounding F8 has to do with its consumer hardware group housed in "Building 8." We haven't heard a lot about it, but rumors seem to point to four advanced technology projects that have to do with brain-scanning, drones, augmented reality and an "early-stage medical device" headed up by a Stanford cardiologist.
And there's likely a lot more. We also expect news around 360-degree video (perhaps an update to its open-source Surround 360 camera?), Facebook Live and probably Instagram and Whatsapp as well. Though much of the above is just speculation, what's clear is that Facebook is no longer just a network for your family and friends. With Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, Oculus, live video, VR and a secretive consumer hardware group under its umbrella, Facebook is now so much more. Expect a busy week ahead.
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