Facebook hosted the opening keynote for its annual developer's conference today and announced several updates to its main social network as well as Instagram, Whatsapp and Messenger. Privacy seems to be the name of the game this year, as Facebook tries to rehab its damaged reputation and regain the trust of its users. Only time will tell if Facebook made any progress today.
Even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed "I believe the future is private," and privacy was mentioned numerous times as each new update or feature rolled out, it's hard to ignore that the company has built its business model on people sharing as much as possible. Facebook in 2019 will have access to more user data than ever before -- from our shopping behavior to dating and more. Even though Facebook is working on making Messenger completely end-to-end encrypted, we don't have a date yet for when this will happen.
Meanwhile, Facebook has announced a variety of updates to its family of apps and services. Those include a new desktop version of Messenger, new VR headsets, changes that will make it easier to shop on Instagram and more. Here's a rundown of all the major announcements unveiled today.
Facebook and Facebook Messenger updates
- Facebook Messenger users will be able to communicate directly with Whatsapp and Instagram users within the app -- whether in messages or video calls.
- Facebook Messenger is getting lighter and faster.
- Facebook is working on making all communications to be made end-to-end encrypted by default on Messenger, though it's unclear when this change will take place.
- Facebook Messenger will get a desktop version for Mac and Windows that will roll out in a few months. The app will include audio calls, group video calls, emoji and many of the other features users are familiar with from the mobile app.
- Facebook's "Meet New Friends" feature is an opt-in tool that will help users make new friends from shared communities, such as the city you live in or school you attended.
- A redesigned Groups tab on Facebook will enable users to see Groups activity front and center, and to share content directly to your groups.
- A new Facebook Events tab will make it easier for users to find out what's happening around them and get recommendations for things to do.
Facebook is doubling down on VR
- Two new virtual-reality headsets, the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S, will go on sale on May 21st.
- The Quest is completely wireless and independent. It's a good choice for those willing to trade power for freedom of movement.
- The Rift S is PC-dependent. It has higher-resolution displays and a better field of view than the original Rift.
- Both the Quest and the Rift S are $399 each; with an option for more storage with the Quest (128GB, rather than 64GB) for $499.
- You can read our review of the Quest here and our preview of the Rift S here.
Facebook Portal will support Whatsapp calls and Amazon Prime Video
- Facebook's video chat device will support Whatsapp calls, and all calls will have end-to-end encryption.
- Facebook's Portal and Portal+ will be available outside of the US, starting with Canada this June and a European expansion this fall.
- Multiplayer augmented reality games, Instant Games and a standalone StoryTime app will also be coming to Portal.
- You'll be able to watch shows and movies from Amazon Prime Video later this year.
- Facebook Live is coming to Portal as well.
Facebook Dating Secret Crush and more countries
- Want to connect to your secret crush? Facebook's Dating app can help.
- The opt-in dating app that Facebook has been testing in a select few countries is launching in 14 more: Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Suriname.
- Facebook Dating will be available in the US later this year.
Facebook Marketplace lets users ship across the continental US
- Sellers will be able to ship items anywhere in the continental US and select from a variety of carriers.
- Buyers will be able to purchase items directly from Facebook Marketplace.
Instagram is testing several features to combat bullying
- Instagram is testing some features to combat bullying; though it's unclear when or even if they'll be implemented permanently."Some of these may never see the light of day," Instagram's Adam Mosseri explained.
- Users who take it too far with a comment will receive a "nudge" from Instagram.
- Profiles will put less emphasis on the number of followers.
- An "away" feature on Instagram will help users achieve some distance from the app if they're in the middle of a breakup, a change of cities or some other life event.
Instagram will make it easier to shop and donate to your favorite causes
- Buying the clothes that your favorite influencer is sporting will get a lot easier. You'll soon be able to shop on Instagram without leaving the app. Over the next few weeks, Instagram will test a feature that lets you buy directly from the app with select influencers and brands.
- New donation stickers in the US will make it easier to raise money for charity on Instagram.
- A new camera design will be launched in the next couple of weeks that gives Instagram users quick access to effects and interactive stickers, including the Donation Sticker.
- Instagram will start hiding "like" counts in Canada as a test.
Update 5/1/19 4:46PM ET: This post has been updated to clarify "Meet New Friends" is part of Facebook proper, not Messenger.