Facebook has announced its biggest redesign in a decade as well as a series of new features at F8, the company’s annual conference in San Jose, California.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed that it is focusing its website and app around private groups and dispensing with the iconic blue bar at the top of the site.” data-reactid=”18″>Its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed that it is focusing its website and app around private groups and dispensing with the iconic blue bar at the top of the site.
Other changes including an extension of its dating service, shopping features in Instagram and WhatsApp, and ways to ask medical questions anonymously.
Here are the new initiatives announced by Facebook:
Groups at front and centre
As well as Facebook’s new app dispensing with its trademark blue header bar, the biggest feature of the change is that it is making Facebook groups far more prominent.
Users will see a personalised feed of activity across all the groups that a user has joined, as well as algorithmic recommendations for new groups to join.
Facebook is adding features to certain types of groups. For example, a feature called Health Support Groups will let them anonymously post questions and share information about health issues without their username appearing.
It is expanding its Jobs groups to allow employers to post vacancies and find candidates. In groups used to buy and sell items, it is trialing new ways to allow buyers to ask questions and place orders while viewing a Facebook Live video.
Zuckerberg has said that groups are a central part of Facebook’s future.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One of Facebook's earliest uses was to tell if somebody was single or taken. A year ago, Facebook embraced its past with a dating service, which allowed users to discover potential romantic matches within their network of friends, events and groups.” data-reactid=”39″>One of Facebook’s earliest uses was to tell if somebody was single or taken. A year ago, Facebook embraced its past with a dating service, which allowed users to discover potential romantic matches within their network of friends, events and groups.
Currently only available in five countries, Columbia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina and Mexico, the service will soon be expanded to 14 new territories in South America and Asia.
Facebook is also launching a new feature called Secret Crush which will allow users to select up to nine of their Facebook friends who they have a romantic interest in. If the people on the list reciprocate, both users get notified of a match.
Payments and shopping
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Facebook has experimented with a payments service, but is now integrating the service with Marketplace, its Gumtree-style online classifieds service. Users in the US will soon have the option to pay for their purchases directly on Facebook and ship to anywhere in the country. ” data-reactid=”54″>Facebook has experimented with a payments service, but is now integrating the service with Marketplace, its Gumtree-style online classifieds service. Users in the US will soon have the option to pay for their purchases directly on Facebook and ship to anywhere in the country.
Instagram, whose visual nature makes it perhaps a more natural destination for online shopping, will get new shopping features. From next week, creators and influencers on Instagram in the US will be able tag items for sell in posts and Stories. It follows the Instagram Shopping pilot announced recently in the US, which allows users to make purchases inside the app from a select group of retailers.
Meanwhile WhatsApp, historically Facebook’s most private product, will gain product catalogues and secure payments, which the company has been testing with about a million users in India.
The company confirmed that it will soon introduce end-to-end encryption on Messenger for the first time. The technology, which makes it almost impossible for messages to be accessed by outsiders, is already used on WhatsApp which Facebook acquired in 2014.
Messenger will also be available as a standalone desktop app for the first time with the new ability to take group calls.
Facebook is also testing allowing users watch videos together in Messenger in real time, as well as creating a new space on the app dedicated to sharing content with only close friends and family.
Make new friends
Whereas the social network was first created to find people users already knew, the new Facebook design will encourage users to make new connections with other people on the platform.
Facebook is introducing a a Meet New Friends tool, which will allow users to befriend strangers on the site with the help of an algorithm which will sort and display people with similar interests.
The company says that it is building on trends that it has seen in Groups, where users with similar interests bought together.
Facebook is expanding sales of its Portal video calling hardware to Europe in the Autumn and will for the first time interrogate WhatsApp into the device. Users will be able to make end-to-end encrypted calls to anyone who uses WhatsApp, Messenger either on Portal or their phone.
The company is also integrating Instagram into Portal, with the ability to cross post between the two. Through a collaboration with Amazon, Portal devices will use Alexa software to utilize smart home controls and stream Amazon Prime Video.
In an effort to try to make the app less of a popularity contest, it plans to demote “likes” for some users. A test in Canada, which may be expanded, will stop showing how many likes a photo has received, instead merely showing a list of everybody who has liked a post.
To try to combat bullying, it is introducing a feature to “nudge” users if they are about to post aggressive comments. If it detects that somebody is typing an offensive sentence, it will ask them if they want to proceed with posting it.
The app will also offer a new “away mode”, to encourage users to take time away from the app when going through a sensitive time such as during a transition to a new school.
The app is also rolling out a donate button for charities, which will allow users to make donations to causes inside Instagram itself. It is also introducing a new camera design, to allow users to post non photo or video content such as interactive stickers and effects.
The company’s new virtual reality headset, the Oculus Quest was unveiled at the conference. The $399 headset was released alongside an updated Oculus Rift S model.
Both new headsets are available to purchase now but will not be shipped until May 21.
The wireless Quest headset comes in two versions, either 64GB or 124GB, which are both available to pre-order now. Both Quest and Rift S come with dual Oculus Touch controllers which can be used with a large catalogue of games.