Facebook developers and devotees will gather in San Francisco for the platform's developer conference this week. Here are a few things to expect.
Mobile. Messaging. Money. These are just a few of the big themes to watch out for at this year's Facebook F8 Developer Conference.
F8 will take place March 25-6 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California. This is the conference's second year after a hiatus in 2012 and 2013.
Last year saw announcements surrounding data, privacy and mobile development, along with the launch of tools like AppLink and updates to Parse, and even some open source tools like Display Node. This year could see the introduction of more new tools for developers, as well as the reiteration of themes like mobile, video and the role that data will play for developers and marketers.
Here are a few thoughts on what to expect from this year's F8.
"The worst-kept secret about F8 is the mobile ad platform for 3rd party publisher-centric apps," said David Vanderpoel, senior director of product innovation at Atlanta-based marketing agency Sparks Grove. Facebook has to play catchup with Twitter's MoPub, which it unveiled at its Flight conference last year, and Google's AdMob.
He also expects the packaging of developer tools like Parse and AppLinks in a more solid SDK offering — and a quick look at the session lineup shows multiple dealing with Parse and App Links.
Facebook already announced on March 17 a new feature that would allow friends to send each other money via message, much like Snapchat's rollout of Snapcash in November.
Vanderpoel said there could be more talk of a payment intermediary strategy.
"This has been futzed around with, allowed to wither, and rebooted for years now. The company is failing forward on this, and if they can crack it, it will be huge," he said.
Newsfeed, erm, news
F8 lists a few sessions dealing with the newsfeed. Carmen Sutter, product manager at Adobe Social, thinks the announcement of Topic Data (Facebook will tell marketers what people are talking about on the platform whether it be events, products, or more) from earlier in the month could indicate a shift toward a data and real-time news strategy.
"Facebook is not part of the conversation during live events as Twitter's real-time nature generates more buzz. I think that Facebook is trying to move into this space with more of a topic/conversation data focus," she said. And next year's elections will only increase the need for Facebook to be seen as the social news source.
As part of the mobile focus, Sutter thinks messaging will also play a big part in this year's F8. Both in terms of messaging for the enterprise — after all, Facebook's been inching toward the enterprise with Facebook for Work — as well as messaging for marketing.
Vanderpoel said this is could be in the form of more dynamic ad unit products — "not just image placement from a catalog, but messaging driven by graph data," he said.
Don't expect much on the VR hardware front
On the heels of both Mobile World Congress and Game Developers Conference, it's unlikely there will be any major hardware-related announcements, even though it's worth noting that the day two keynote is in part, devoted to the topic of why VR will matter to developers.
"Oculus mentioned at GDC that they're focusing on mobile (Gear VR) for the time being, while the Oculus Rift continues on behind the curtain," said ABI Research Analyst Eric Abbruzzese.
He thinks announcements will lean more toward software or and maybe expanded content creation/distribution like Oculus Story Studio.
There's also a thinner chance of talk about social VR experiences.
"I'd love to see a detailed Oculus Rift update, especially with the unveiling of Valve/HTC's Vive headset. But, I think they would have made an announcement like that at GDC rather than F8," Abbruzzese said.
Vanderpoel said he'd be interested to see some of what's created in Facebook's Data Science Group turned into actual products.
These are the guys who could tell you everything from who in your network is most likely to introduce you to your next significant other to what drives our productive conversations about race, and what sabotages them.
"These guys could out-Buzzfeed everyone, including Google and AOL," he said, but so far what they work on hasn't gotten much play.
"Whether they turn this work into a paid research offering, an anonymized open-source data lake for social good, or just one more way to deliver precision marketing, I can't imagine letting this languish on a page with 400K Likes the way they do now," he said.