What to expect from Facebook’s F8 developer conference this week


Facebook’s F8 developer conference takes place this Tuesday and Wednesday at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. While the company hasn’t publicly disclosed what it’ll be revealing during its two-day event, here are a few educated guesses about what could be announced.

There has been a lot of buzz in the past few days around support for chatbots within Facebook Messenger. At last year’s conference, the company debuted its Facebook Messenger Platform, which gives developers access to a product with now more than 900 million users. This week, we’ll likely see Facebook launch new APIs that will bring chatbots into Messenger, as well as a plugin for businesses to tap into the product.

Incorporating bot technology into Facebook Messenger isn’t a surprise, especially following revelations that developers had access to a secret chat SDK. This tool is used to develop more interactive experiences within the popular messaging app, giving users the ability to shop, book travel, and more. It also comes as competitors and similar services have thrown their support behind bots, like Line, Kik, WeChat, Telegram, Microsoft, Skype, and Slack. And that’s not all, as Google is reportedly working on a way to incorporate the technology.

But Facebook’s entry into the bot market could be the most significant because of its extensive reach, database of user information, and advertising/monetization capabilities. This will most likely take up the bulk of the first day’s keynote.

Since video remains a high priority for the company, we will probably see some new features around 360 videos, especially as relates to Oculus Rift. Facebook’s official conference app lists two sessions focused on how developers can optimize this video type for virtual reality and how to utilize it in their own apps.

It’s doubtful that we’ll see any new announcements about Facebook Live, especially since Facebook released new features and capabilities just last week. And since its launch in August, the livestreaming service is relatively new, so finding ways for developers to tap into it could be a bit premature. However, there is at least one session at F8 dedicated to a behind-the-scenes look at video streaming on Facebook.

Facebook will open up its Instant Articles program at F8,  allowing all publishers and developers to have the social network natively host their content. Publishers of “all size” will be able to tap into this, stepping up the rivalry between Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages program. This offers publishers the ability to bring their content to a site with not only a mass audience, but also a high rate of sharing. Even better, it’s a site that’s really optimized for mobile devices.

The company claims that it has already on-boarded a “few hundred publishers.”

While the focus of this week’s event is motivating developers to build on top of the Facebook suite of tools and products, it’s also about helping them monetize their work. This means you can expect there to be a few words about updates to the Facebook Audience Network, which debuted in 2014 and extends the social network’s advertising capabilities beyond its site into third-party mobile apps.

Based on a new study the company commissioned, it’s believed that native advertising will be an essential part of the mobile monetization landscape by 2020. Research indicates that two-thirds of all mobile display ads will be native and suggests that advertisers will spend approximately $53 billion on native mobile ads. Facebook said that it has already seen this trend first-hand — its native ad format adoption has grown 10x since Q1 2015 and now makes up 83 percent of its Audience Network.

Facebook will likely also announce that Windows developers can tap into the Audience Network for their apps. Microsoft executive vice president for Windows and Devices group Terry Myerson revealed the social networking company’s plans last month at the Build developer conference, saying that the Audience Network and mobile app install SDKs will be coming to the Windows platform.

This will be the first F8 since Parse was acquired that Facebook probably won’t have any major news about the service, largely because the cloud service is in the process of being shuttered.

Other things that could receive a mention include Facebook’s Free Basics and thoughts on how developers should view the platform after it’s hit some significant road bumps in countries like India. How will CEO Mark Zuckerberg continue to show that his Internet-spreading initiative can move forward?

Another big topic is Oculus VR and the company’s next steps in virtual reality. Oculus’ first product has already begun shipping, so Facebook could conceivably reveal sales numbers or speak about what it plans to do next with the technology. At Mobile World Congress in February, an image of Zuckerberg walking to the stage while attendees wore Samsung Gear VR headsets was very telling. Facebook’s CEO is enthusiastic about the power of the technology, and it will be interesting to see if the company shares more of its roadmap.

VentureBeat will be on the ground at F8 this week and will report back on the latest updates and announcements from the event.

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