F8, Facebook’s annual developers conference is addressing privacy concerns while touting new features, VR offerings and an internet famous dog—here’s what you need to know.
Customer Control Will Trump Ad Targeting
Facebook users will soon be able to clear their history of activity tracked by the company just like clearing browser history. The “Clear History” tool will display information about apps and websites users have interacted with and allow users to clear and effectively reset that information or opt out of tracking altogether.
Zuckerberg warned in a Tuesday Facebook post that clearing history will deliver less relevant information to users.
“To be clear, when you clear your cookies in your browser, it can make parts of your experience worse, he said. “You may have to sign back into every website, and you may have to reconfigure things. The same will be true here. Your Facebook won’t be as good while it relearns your preferences.”
The tool is limited to Facebook users and Zuckerberg’s announcement did not address how the site tracks those who do not use the site at all, much less what non-users can do to control their data.
Dating And Conversation
Zuckerberg said that despite the challenges ahead, Facebook will “keep building and bringing the world closer together.”
Facebook announced a new opt-in dating feature that only suggests other Facebook users who are not already friends. The tool will allow users to build separate dating profiles that use first names only, which will be hidden from regular friends and news feeds.
A dedicated inbox for dating messages won’t allow photos, Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox explained—a relief for anyone who has ever received unsolicited photos of the NSFW variety. Facebook hopes its dating app will foster relationships over casual hook-ups, which may also explain the no photo policy.
In a move that mimics Twitch, a feature called “live commenting” will allow users to comment in real-time alongside Facebook videos.
One of the problems of online interaction is the prevalence of hate speech and bullying. Facebook is privately testing a new feature that automatically blocks certain comments and allows users to report abusive behavior. A bug pushed the feature live for a limited time on Tuesday, momentarily bringing awareness to its existence.
All In For AR And VR
Standalone headset Oculus Go launched on Tuesday, retailing for $199 compared to the existing $399 Oculus which requires a high-end PC. Oculus Go launches with over 1,000 games and experiences, including Oculus TV and Venues, which allows users to hang out with friends at live events.
WhatsApp will soon offer video calls and tools for businesses to use the platform as a service. AR camera tools will potentially enhance these calls and continue to rival Snapchat.
New AR features for Instagram were demonstrated by petfluencer JiffPom. The famous little dog has over eight million followers on Instagram alone.
A New Age Of Accountability
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage on Tuesday and wasted no time in addressing concerns that have dominated recent headlines, from data privacy to election interference. Zuckerberg adopted a positive approach to the problems his company has faced, even using his recent US Congress testimony as a joking way to introduce group video interaction.
“We are all here because we are optimistic about the future,” said Zuckerberg in his keynote speech. “We have real challenges to address but we have to keep that sense of optimism too. What I learned this year is we have to take a broader view of our responsibility.”
Facebook recently purchased a full-page print ad in the US and UK in March that apologizes for data leaks amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The headline reads, “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.”
A video “apology” was also issued last week that gets specific about how users enjoyed Facebook in the beginning, but paints user concerns with a broad brush, referring to ads, fake news and other issues as “something” that “happened” rather than taking direct responsibility. Zuckerberg’s statements during F8 indicate that he—and by extension, Facebook—is starting to realize the global impact it has on its users.