What to Expect from Facebook’s F8 Dev Event

Facebook F8

Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, starts today. While not considered a major event by tech pros outside the Facebook ecosystem, it nonetheless serves as a jumping off point for various Facebook services and initiatives. Here’s what we’re looking for.

There won’t be a lot of surprises. Facebook won’t launch a new platform developers should be excited about, but it will continue to build on its existing services. We’re going to learn about artificial intelligence (A.I.), Messenger, bots, video and what Facebook’s relationship with the media will look like moving forward.

Those avenues will have new features, though. Instagram is getting an offline mode, and Facebook seems to be opening up its Camera to developers. Its Places Graph may also become available to developers soon.

Instagram’s offline mode is positioned as a growth opportunity for the platform, making it more widely available in areas with limited coverage. Those emerging markets lay in the 80 percent of its market Instagram says is outside of the United States; a session dedicated to Instagram offline will discuss Facebook’s early findings in testing the feature.

Facebook Camera is branching out as a platform, with dedicated sessions during the conference. If you camp out in Room G at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose on Tuesday, a triumvirate of sessions (starting at 12:30pm) discuss Camera. The aim is to first ‘introduce’ the Camera platform, then dive into building ‘frames,’ which we can only imagine is Facebook’s proprietary term for filters.

Also in Room G, a late Tuesday session will introduce you to the Places Graph, and how Facebook uses it for the core platform, Instagram and Messenger. The session language invites us to “learn how to use data about 140M+ places around the world to create location aware app experiences.”

Camera and Places seem to be primed for new APIs. Specifically, we have to wonder if Camera will be its own mini-platform for developers, with a series of APIs for different ‘Frames.’ Places may turn out to be a monetization strategy; we’ve seen this type of thing from Twitter, which recently leaned into Gnip for API monetization.

Bots are still a thing, and TechCrunch is reporting Facebook will open them up for group chats inside of Messenger. It’s not clear why anyone would want that, or how developers would be expected to create unique experiences for groups, but it represents a new dynamic nonetheless. It could simply be a convenience add-on (no need to go into a solo chat, then report back to the group, for instance).

F8 still has a heavy VR bent, but there’s not a lot of ‘wow’ in session details. Instead, Facebook is looking to round VR out a bit by educating developers on things such as scripting and creating social experiences for VR. Interestingly enough, only one session specifically details gaming in VR, suggesting Facebook is ready to turn the corner on Oculus and start positioning it as a standout platform for VR.

Publishers will be interested in several sessions pointed directly at them, with Facebook talking about how to monetize a video-first page and what changes will be made to the News Feed. It may not address such matters in a keynote, but Facebook may discuss ‘fake news’ in breakout sessions. We can at least expect some back-and-forth on that topic during a late-day ‘Fireside Chat’ on “The Future of Media.”

F8 points developers down a few distinct avenues rather than focusing on a broad developer platform. Developers who aren’t already creating with Facebook in mind won’t find much reason to start, based on what we can glean from F8’s schedule, but we’re open to surprises.

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