Facebook F8 – Business as usual

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Progression, but little excitement.

  • While Facebook’s announcements at its developer conference were not exactly ground-breaking, it is clear that Facebook remains extremely commercial and is very focused on fixing its weaknesses.
  • Highlights from F8 include:
    • First augmented reality: Facebook has decided to re-focus on AR in what looks like a pre-emptive strike against Snapchat.
    • This includes the launch of a new camera platform that follows up on the roll-out of camera capability to all of its apps.
    • With the camera capability now everywhere, developers will now be able to create content that can overlay the real world as seen through a smartphone camera.
    • This includes Snapchat-like photo and video annotations as well as combining the ability to map a 3D environment and place virtual objects within it.
    • The aim here is to get users to spend more time within the Facebook ecosystem thereby increasing potential for monetisation.
    • Second: Artificial Intelligence. This remains a major weakness for Facebook but it does appear to have made some progress in image recognition.
    • This makes some sense as the core competencies of its biggest AI hires are in this area.
    • Facebook showed AI that was capable of advanced object recognition as well as the tracking of moving objects through video.
    • This was complimented by progress on making Facebook M (digital assistant) smarter as well as improving the quality of the bots that it offers to companies to communicate with their clients.
    • AI remains essential to Facebook’s long-term growth as it is sitting upon a mountain of data but still is not in a position to really make the most of the insights and automation that it can provide.
    • Third: Gaming. A lot of progress has been made in developing game play within Messenger.
    • Rich game play is now enabled with real time and turn by turn games making up the majority of the line-up.
    • There are now 45 games available for play within Messenger and with the gaming tab be enabled within the app imminently.
    • I think that this is a crucial step forward as gaming remains the largest segment of Digital Life and in developed markets, there is still no dominant player.
    • Fourth Chat extensions: This enables developers to bring their services directly into chat sessions.
    • Spotify is the best example where users can search Spotify for a track and then post that track as well as play a sample all within the chat.
    • Apple Music will also be coming to the platform later in 2017.
    • Fifth Monetisation: Behind all of the new announcements is a single-minded determination to drive more traffic onto the platform.
    • This can be seen everywhere from the desire to enrich mundane events to encourage sharing to enticing users to spend more time on the platform.
    • Data richness and time spent are two key elements when it comes to understanding user activity and being able to earn revenues from it.
    • This is not a subject that was directly addressed anywhere but one can see the hand of the cash register in everything that Facebook does.
  • Facebook revealed nothing that was really ground breaking but instead spent time addressing its weaknesses as well as ensuring that rivals are not able to steal its user engagement.
  • I am still quite cautious with regards to Facebook’s outlook for this year as I don’t think that either its video offering or its gaming offering are mature enough to bring the company back to high growth in 2017.
  • This combined with requirement to really improve its AI to compete on a level playing field with Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon leads me to still prefer Baidu, Tencnet and Microsoft.