Facebook gives developers a host of new tools at F8 Refresh

The F8 Refresh digital conference offered new content and platforms for developers and the enterprise.

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Facebook announced new updates for the WhatsApp Business API. 

Image: Facebook

Facebook showcased a bevy of new and updated tools and platforms for developers at F8 Refresh on Wednesday, including  Messenger API for Instagram, WhatsApp Business, Login Connect with Messenger and Facebook Business Extension.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said that the conference was going to head back to its roots and focus solely on developers. The one-day conference began in 2007, but took a break last year due to the pandemic. 

This year, F8 was fully virtual. Among the many announcements was the news that Messenger API for Instagram is opening up to all developers. This will make it possible for brands to combine messaging with applications and workflows to better monetize their presence on the social media platform. In the beta version, 30 developers and 700 brands participated. Messenger API for Instagram will be rolled out in phases

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Facebook also announced updates to the WhatsApp Business API. The updates include faster onboarding for a new business, support for more types of messages, such as when an item is back in stock, and new messaging features such as list messages with a menu of up to 10 options to eliminate the need for typing out a response. Facebook said that 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account each day. 

Developers learned at F8 Refresh on Wednesday that open source machine learning framework PyTorch is going to be the default framework for all of Facebook's AI and machine learning models. Facebook's AI researchers created this platform in 2016.  

There's also a new feature in closed beta, Login Connect with Messenger, so that people can message businesses directly from their Facebook login flow. Among test participants, 70% of users opted in for messaging, according to Facebook. Facebook said this feature will be widely available in the coming months. 

A new platform was announced, Facebook Business Extension, which can be used to integrate and show business apps in the Facebook Business Suite, which was introduced last year. Third party tools will be added to Business Apps. In the coming months, Facebook said, "we'll grow the ecosystem of apps by inviting our developer community to apply for early access."

Spark AR previewed its new Multipeer API for AR video calling. Developers are invited to join the closed beta program, with the new features available on Messenger, and opening up soon for Instagram and Portal. As part of the beta, creators will get access to new tooling and capabilities for building and publishing AR effects for video calling, as well as templates, documentation, tutorials and coaching.

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