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F8 2018: Amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook unveils dating platform, Instagram updates and Oculus TV

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 2 May 2018, 14:46 IST
(Josh Edelson/AFP)

It's been nothing short of a tumultuous year so far for Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook. The company has been embroiled in a huge data privacy scandal and having to deal with the aftermath of Cambridge Analytica. Then there is the ongoing problem of election-meddling issues and fighting fake news. Zuckerberg started out his 90-minute speech at Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, by recapping the efforts by the social network to address those issues.

“We’re investing a lot to address these issues and keep people safe, but we also have a responsibility to move forward on everything else that our community expects from us too. The hardest decision that I made this year wasn’t to invest so much in safety and security, that decision was easy," Zuckerberg said on stage. "The hard part was figuring out a way to move forward on everything else we need to do too."

More significantly for Facebook and its investors is what the social network plans on doing going forward. Zuckerberg made a number of feature announcements and shed light on some of the new products Facebook has been working on. Here are the biggest takeaways from Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote on Day 1 of the developers conference.

1. "Clear History"

Data privacy is at the top of everyone's mind and to that extent, Facebook said that it is rolling out a "Clear History" option on the social network. It's Facebook's newest privacy feature. This tool allows the users to delete all the data Facebook has collected from apps and websites that use its own ads and analytics tool. Simply put, the user can scrub their browsing history from Facebook's data storage.

There is no specific timeline as to the launch of this tool, but it should happen sooner rather than later.

2. Facebook and its app review process

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica crisis, Facebook is re-opening its app review process. This is welcome news for all developers out there.

“Now, I know that it hasn’t been easy being a developer these past couple months, that’s probably an understatement. What I can assure you is that we’re hard at work making sure people don’t misuse this platform so you can all keep building things that people love, and today I’m happy to share that we’re reopening app reviews so you can all keep moving forward,” said Zuckerberg onstage.

3. Instagram is getting video calling

The popular photography app Instagram is getting video calling, stepping on the toes of fellow Facebook company WhatsApp. The video calling feature will be available in the Direct Messaging tab. This feature is currently in a testing phase and will be rolling out globally soon. One can also now create a group chat. Furthermore, you can also minimise the video screen and continue browsing Instagram while being on the video call. What isn't know is the maximum number of people that can participate in a video call at a given time.

Instagram is also rolling out a brand new Explore tab. In the Explore tab, there will now be buttons, at the top of the page, in a carousel. This gives the user the option to swipe through various subjects like architecture and photography and see much more on that specific topic. The content will be curated more toward what the user is interested in.

Both these features should be available globally within the next few weeks.

Last but not least, Instagram is also getting brand new filters to protect the users from all those bullying comments.

4. WhatsApp hits 450 million stories users

On stage at the developers conference, it was proudly announced that the WhatsApp Status feature has now hit 450 million daily active users. That's almost three times as many as those who use Snapchat.

WhatsApp is also getting the group video calling feature and stickers.

5. Facebook simplifies its Messenger app

Facebook Messenger is getting refreshed. The app's layout has been redesigned. It now has a much cleaner look. It's also getting a limited translation tool. For now, those chatting over the Facebook Marketplace in the USA can get Spanish to English translations and vice-versa. This feature is soon to expand gradually with many more translations in the future.

Companies can now add augmented reality effects to their chats with their customers.

6. VR Memories and 3D Photos

3D illustrations and models are being brought to the Facebook News Feed. Users will soon be able to post 3D photos to their News Feed. For now, little is known about this feature, or how the photos will be captured.

Facebook also announced VR Memories. This uses machine learning and recreates scenes from old photos in virtual reality.

7. Sharing to Facebook & Instagram Stories from other apps

There's a new way to share with your favourite apps. Users can now share directly to their Instagram Stories or Facebook News Feed via apps like Spotify, Go Pro and Saavn. All they need to do is tap the 'share' button in their apps and pull content directly into the cameras on Instagram or Facebook.

One needn't connect their Facebook or Instagram accounts to other apps for this feature to work.

8. Oculus Go is now on sale

Facebook's standalone VR headset, Oculus Go is now on sale at just $199 for the 32GB storage variant and $249 for the 64GB model.

9. Oculus TV

Facebook wants to immerse consumers in the world of virtual reality as much as they can. To that extent, Facebook has tied up with a number of content partners - Netflix, Hulu, MLB, NBA, etc - to provide VR experiences. It basically brings the TV to the VR world. VR users can watch by themselves or with friends.

10. FaceDate

Facebook caught everyone by surprise by announced FaceDate. It's a dating feature where one can make a profile that's visible only to non-friends looking for love. It's Facebook's turn to take on Tinder. The match-making feature will be launching soon.

"There are 200 million people on Facebook who list themselves as single," said Mr Zuckerberg. "And if we are committed to building meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all."

It's a platform for all those single people to meet potential dates. It's an opt-in feature and according to Zuckerberg will focus on "real long-term relationships, not just hook-ups". One criticism of dating apps is that the users bump into their friends a lot. FaceDate is doing away with this problem.

Facebook Dating is built right into its app. It's similar to Tinder but one can connect it to Facebook Events to find potential matches interested in similar events out there.

Investors think that Facebook is on to something as Tinder's parent company Match Group's shares fell by as much as 22% after the announcement was made.

First published: 2 May 2018, 14:46 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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