Facebook’s future ambitions will be on full display at the company’s annual F8 developer conference, taking place on April 12 and 13.
The Menlo Park, Calif. firm began life as a way for college students to connect. Over a decade later, it wants a slice of everything we do online, from booking airline flights to watching cat videos. After all, the more Facebook knows about our Internet behavior, the more attractive it looks to big-spending advertisers.
Facebook should make its future plans more clear at F8. Here’s what to expect from the conference.
Messenger bots aren’t new — think SmarterChild, from the AIM days. But Facebook and other firms are betting they’ll see a big renaissance thanks to improved artificial intelligence and other factors. The firm is expected to announce new tools that will help businesses create their own “chatbots” for Facebook Messenger, which could handle customer service queries, process transactions or help with marketing campaigns.
Chatbots are already alive and well on Messenger performing a variety of tasks. Disney built a Miss Piggy bot that chats with fans of her Facebook Page in order to promote ABC’s Muppets show. Uber’s bot helps users hail rides from within Facebook’s app. And KLM Royal Dutch Airlines just launched the first airline bot.
Facebook’s hope is that chatbots will keep more users glued to its app, where it can profit from their attention. The firm won’t make money from bots right away. But if they take off, Facebook could start taking a slice of other companies’ transactions on the platform. That would help Facebook finally monetize e-commerce, which it has largely failed to do. For Messenger bots to succeed, Facebook will have to convince users it’s easier to chat with a robot than open up another app.
Again, online live-streaming is not a new innovation. But Facebook’s massive scale is bringing new life to the format via Live, the company’s new instant broadcasting feature. Facebook unleashed a torrent of Live updates last week, including a world map showing livestreams as they’re happening and a video portal that makes it easier for people to find Live videos after they’ve disappeared from the News Feed.
Currently, Facebook’s Live videos can only be shot using a smartphone. Facebook may announce the ability to shoot using higher-quality cameras at F8, according to Recode. That could help the company entice more media companies, especially from the world of television, to commit significant resources to Live. Already some unusual videos have managed to attract large audiences. A BuzzFeed stream of a watermelon exploding under pressure from rubber bands gained 800,000 live viewers.
Facebook-owned Oculus VR just released its Rift virtual reality headset, so it’s likely Facebook will be crowing about VR’s potential to change the way we communicate. F8’s schedule includes multiple sessions dedicated to optimizing optimizing 360-degree video for the Rift, so it’s possible Facebook will sneak in an announcement or two related to the format.