Facebook has kicked off the 2019 edition of its annual developer conference with a bang. The company has announced significant changes across the board for its applications, and there is an expected focus on privacy as well. Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and even the hardware products such as Portal smart displays are in line to get new features. The F8 conference perhaps comes at the perfect time for Facebook, as it looks to rebuild user confidence after a tough past few months. Whether this is enough or not, only time will tell. But in a way, a lot of the Facebook products are now branching out and trying to capture newer user demographics and new revenue sources.
Facebook app gets new attire
The Facebook app on your smartphone is about to get a completely new coat of paint and a completely new design. Called the FB5, the new app ditches the blue colour, relegates the News Feed and is redirecting the focus on Groups. There will be an overhauled Groups tab that will show you a feed of all the activity from the groups that you are a part of. While Facebook may have more than a billion users globally, the company believes that there are about 400 million users who are a part of groups they find relevant, and that is the demographic they want to pursue more intently now. The redesigned Facebook app will also show Group suggestions based on Facebook’s virtual personality sketch of you and more content from Groups will show on your standard News Feed as well.
Facebook is also introducing new features to certain categories of groups. Health Support groups will now allow members can post questions and share information without their name appearing with the post. In Job groups, there will be a new template for employers to post new openings, and job seekers will be able to message the employer who shared the opening and apply directly for the job through Facebook. The Gaming groups will get a new chat feature.
The new Facebook version is now rolling out for users, and everyone will be able to see the new features and design on the app within the next few days.
A new direction for Messenger
Facebook Messenger is in line to get certain under-the-hood as well as more visible changes as the instant messaging app gears up for a slightly different positioning. Facebook is building Messenger from the ground up, in an attempt to make it lighter, faster and smaller. The new Messenger app will roll out later this year, though no specific timelines have been mentioned just yet. Facebook is also looking to add end-to-end encryption to all communications on the platform. Facebook is also introducing what they call a introducing a dedicated space where you will be able to discover Stories and messages with your friends and family.
There will also be a desktop app for Facebook Messenger, for Windows and macOS. Apart from the messaging features, it’ll also have group calls and the ability to collaborate on a project with friends or colleagues. This could be a slight hint of the Workplace by Facebook being added to the Messenger, to make the app even more relevant for small teams, for instance.
Instagram gets serious about shopping
Instagram is adding new features that would make it easier for users to shop on the platform. “Instead of taking a screenshot or asking for product details in comments or Direct, you can simply tap to see exactly what your favorite creators are wearing and buy it on the spot. Anyone in our global community will be able to shop from creators,” says Facebook. By making transactions easier on Instagram, the platform attempts to gain some traction and eventually be considered a serious shopping platform with pretty much unlimited potential for customized shopping experiences for users in the times ahead.
If you are someone who likes to give money to charity from time to time, Instagram wants to be friends with you. Facebook has announced that users can now raise money for a non-profit on Instagram and confirms that 100% of the money raised on Instagram going to the non-profit you’re supporting. This is available in the US right now, but will eventually be available in more countries.
Instagram will also get a new camera and create mode, which will give users quicker access to effects and interactive stickers to add to whatever they are sharing.
Facebook Portal going global
The Facebook Portal and Portal+ smart displays will now be available in Canada from June and arrive in Europe in the fall this year. These displays will now also let users make WhatsApp calls, with end-to-end encryption. Facebook also confirms that Amazon Video will also be available on the Portal devices later this year. The Portal and the Portal+ compete with the likes of Amazon Echo Show and the Google Home Hub.