Facebook’s F8 conference confirmed tech journalists’ speculations
It was Facebook’s silence over its upcoming F8 developer conference in San Francisco that encouraged tech journalists across the Web to share their own speculations on what Zuckerberg and his team might reveal on its flagship product. Several days before Tuesday, the first in the two-day event, the tech world was practically inundated with wild guesses and assumptions, many of which centered on the possible inclusion of bots in the leading social network’s existing services.
According to Andrew Griffin of The Independent, Facebook has plans of surpassing the likes of WeChat, which has already incorporated various bot-powered features like cab-hailing and cash transfer. While others think that it would just refurbish its app by introducing special customer service capabilities, Griffin believed that it’s just bigger than being an “improved Viber.”
Griffin said that bots have a large potential of becoming upgraded versions of what we know now as “push notification.” Sooner or later these machines will tell consumers what specific products are now available in stock or what stories consumers need to know at a particular moment. The possibility of a successful bot integration to messaging apps can pave the way for the obliteration of apps as these bots could replace computers which consumers asks about anything.
What Facebook really wants is to make Messenger a go-to place for customers, and this app is perfect for testing the waters given the size and number of its users. Sooner or later, Zuckerberg will transform Facebook into a hub for all kinds of apps, be it for service or entertainment. The current experimentations on Facebook and Messenger could be just a beginning of something bigger.
The speculations were right. On the first day of the conference, Zuckerberg announced that bots are now a new addition to Messenger. Their initial task is to provide various automated services such as weather and traffic updates and breaking news, customer support, e-commerce guidance, and other soon-to-be-announced interactive features. Zuckerberg said that it’s a preparation for the next-generation messaging system where every business-to-consumer transaction will be done in a friendly manner, or as though “customers are just messaging a close friend.”
The idea of utilizing bots for improved interface, service, and function is not really an original move for Facebook, but its foray into the relatively untapped market remains the most essential and groundbreaking. “[Zuckerberg’s] entry into the bot market could be the most significant because of its extensive reach, database of user information, and advertising/monetization capabilities. This will most likely take up the bulk of the first day’s keynote,” explains Ken Yeung of Venture Beat.
Yet a global success for Facebook’s evidently bandwidth-consuming technology could only materialize should Internet connection in some countries become as stable as it is in most economically advanced nations. In this case, companies like 5BARz International (OTCQB: BARZ), a fast-rising network extender provider, might gain more popularity in these areas if bot-powered messenger apps become ubiquitous and a necessity. Consumer demand for better connection just to avail of Facebook’s enhanced products could force telcos in the future to resort to the likes of 5BARz. In 2015, the absence of stable Internet connection in India had convinced the local telco companies here that they needed the San Diego-based firm’s services to appease low customer satisfaction over their undermining services.
Nonetheless, it’s not just Messenger, which is now enjoying 3x more messages than SMS when combined with Whatsapp, that will experience major improvements. After announcements on Live last week, updates on its 360 video was finally released. At the event the company also announced that it has successfully built its own version of high-tech 3D camera, aptly named Facebook Surround 360. What makes this unique is that it has 17-lens 3D VR camera that can eliminate a big chunk of post-production polishing throughgenslocking. The technology capable of producing up to 8K footage remains unfinished, which means consumers need to wait for more updates in the months to come.
Zuckerberg said that the traditional profile photo can now be enhanced by using third-party apps such as Boomerang, Lollicam, and Vine. This service, called Profile Expression Kit, can also encourage other social media sites to follow suit, except for the “professional sites” like LindkedIn, of course.
There are also the new browsing and saving features called “Quote Sharing,” in which users can now easily share passages found on browser or within a separate app, as well as the “Save Button,” which works like a Bookmark button for Facebook. These two can be considered an auxiliary feature to the regular “Share” button in which users can only share a link or a whole article but not just a section of it.
Finally, since this event is for the developers, Zuckerberg revealed that building for Free Basics with the Free Basics Simulator will now be easier, more accessible, and navigable. This becomes possible through the “Preview” feature, in which developers will now be able to see how their service will appear in the product. There’s also “Demographic Insights, which gives them a comprehensive overview of users accessing their services.
Also, Facebook Analytics for App Updates will experience more enhancements in the months to come, as part of aiding both developers and online entrepreneurs expand their reach with thee help of deeper target market understanding.
Macquarie’s analyst Ben Schachter, as reported by Angela Campbell of Country Caller, is certain that Zuckerberg is simply preparing Facebook into becoming a one-stop-shop for all sorts of mobile technologies in the future as it puts Messenger, Virtual Reality (VR), Facebook Audience Network (FAN) and Video at the center of its existing core services, which are messaging and social networking.
Rosenblatt Securities analyst Martin Pyykkonen also shares the same opinion, with the addition of enhancing existing features for Instagram and WhatsApp. “We see Facebook’s revenue growth visibility being enhanced by Instagram this year, Messenger in 2017, more mass-market virtual reality and maybe WhatsApp by 2018.” Pyykkonen wrote, according to a report published by the Investors.
Consumers are yet to hear from Zuckerberg about his plans on Virtual Reality, especially on Oculus Rift, the current ringleader of the VR market.
The conference was held last April 12 and 13, 2016 at the Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California.