- Facebook unveiled a redesigned mobile app and website at its annual F8 conference for developers, while CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a keynote presentation that "the future is private" to address concerns about the company's data-sharing practices. The new Facebook app, which went live yesterday, stresses private groups and visual stories instead of the core News Feed.
- The social media giant plans to make its Messenger chat app faster and lighter for smartphones, and is currently testing a desktop version that will be released this year, Asha Sharma, head of Messenger consumer products, said in the keynote presentation. The redesigned Messenger will have a video co-watching feature and will soon let people communicate with Instagram and WhatsApp users by both text and voice. The company in the next few months plans to add a template directly into Ads Manager that will let advertisers run lead-generation campaigns in Messenger, per an announcement shared with sister publication Mobile Marketer.
- Meanwhile, Instagram announced it will launch a "shop the look" feature for social influencers next week. The direct-to-consumer (DTC) feature will let creators tag products in their posts and handle purchases directly in the app. Facebook also added a donation feature to Instagram and revamped the app's camera to include a "create mode" that makes it easier to share interactive content like quizzes.
Facebook's greater emphasis on privacy likely won't interfere with its ad targeting capabilities, considering that the company has tightened its data-sharing policies in recent years. Last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed how the company let app developers gather personal information about millions of users without their informed consent, hasn't impeded ad sales or user growth. While the company faces a Federal Trade Commission fine of as much as $5 billion for data-sharing abuses, its ad revenue still jumped 26% to $14.9 billion in Q1 2019 from $11.8 billion a year earlier. Most of Facebook's user growth was global in the past year, while its U.S. and Canadian user base barely nudged upward.
Among the many announcements, Facebook's apps, including the main social network, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, are becoming more transactional. The addition of a lead generator in Messenger aims to help businesses book appointments with customers, provide customer service and create lead-generation campaigns in the popular chat app that exchanges 20 billion messages among users and businesses every month, per data shared with Mobile Marketer.
Instagram's new DTC shopping features will let influencers generate direct sales from their posts, giving them more creative tools to interact with loyal followers. The news follows Instagram's announcement of the native Checkout feature that lets users buy products without ever leaving the app. Similarly, WhatsApp this year plans to add product catalogs that let marketers showcase a broader range of wares and keep users on the app for longer.
Zuckerberg's 35-minute keynote speech follows his announcement in March that the company planned to integrate Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger to enable private communication directly across all platforms. He said Facebook would shift from an open forum to a "digital living room" where discussions can be intimate, short-lived and secure. Those plans have partly come to fruition with this week's updated apps, although Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company may continue to grapple with legacy issues.
"I get that a lot of people aren't sure that we're serious about this," he said during the presentation. "I'm sure we're going to keep on unearthing old issues for a while, so it may not feel like we're making progress at first."