In the past two years, Facebook has shifted the focus of its F8 conference from consumers to developers. During the 2015 edition of the event at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, there were several developments and discussions that will be of interest to brands and businesses. Here are the top five.
1. Messenger business
One of the bigger announcements from the opening keynote was the Messenger Business platform. Facebook's out to change the way people interact with businesses by moving the online purchase process—receipts, confirmation emails, shipping notifications, and customer service issues—into the Facebook Messenger inbox. Couple that with the introduction of payments through Messenger, and Facebook's putting yet another hook into users' lives, blending social, business, and brand experience. That is, if users buy into the idea of that blend, and if businesses can adequately incorporate it into not only their social plans, but customer service structure, then it could change the way consumers interact with companies. And let's not forget, no one likes spam.
2. Insight into the Facebook newsfeed
At a session on day one of F8, Facebook's Adam Mosseri and Lars Backstrom detailed why users see the posts that they do in their newsfeeds. Posts are assigned score based on content type, post activity, and relationship with the author. So, if two people had an identical friend list, they still would have different news feeds. Facebook even has hired contractors to rate the items on their newsfeeds and that gets compared to the scoring system. Since past actions play into how new content gets displayed, Facebook advises against things like using click bait headlines, in favor of building for the long term. Plus, the platform's made moves to reduce overly promotional material and hoaxes.
3. Virtual reality
People have wondered where exactly virtual reality will fit into Facebook's big goals, but at F8, Facebook's CTO Mike Schroepfer talked about VR as fitting into the platform's ten-year plan, with includes immersion as one of the three main points. The idea of creating "moments" and bringing people in on those moments, in a basic form, is a long standing effort on the part of marketers and advertisers. Also, on day one, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg debuted spherical video, which is a more immersive form of video that will be supported on the news feed. Facebook also talked about the evolution of updates from text to photos to video to virtual reality.
4. Open source data centers
Facebook's Open Compute Project is four years old, but will remain a part of the platform's longer term goals. Essentially, they've made available designs for things like servers and data centers—what they call "foundational technology" and also by doing things their way, they say they've saved roughly $2 billion dollars in the past year. Adobe Social's Carmen Sutter said this could potentially create a pipeline of startups and talent built off this open source hardware, and Facebook can potentially tap into.
5. Artificial Intelligence
During the day two opening keynote, Schroepfer talked about Facebook's research in AI, specifically something called Memory Networks. Memory Networks essentially handles question answering—and not just simple questions. In a demo, Memory Networks was able to process a synopsis of Lord of the Rings and answer questions like "Where was the ring before Mount Doom?"
- Virtual reality: How it factors into Facebook's 10-year plan
- Zuckerberg at F8: Messenger Business will change customer service and how we interact with businesses
- Are SMBs near the end of organic reach on Facebook?
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.