Drones Beaming Web Access Are in the Stars for Facebook

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Everything you need to know about the changes coming to Facebook.

Facebook announced a series of features and updates at its annual F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, and while the news is mostly targeted for developers and app designers right now, it could eventually mean big things for Facebook users. Facebook said it would soon begin testing a system to allow businesses to use Messenger to offer personalized service to customers after a purchase is made.

SAN FRANCISCO, USA (AP) — Facebook is trying to mould its Messenger app into a more versatile communications hub as smartphones create new ways for people to connect with friends and businesses beyond the walls of the company’s ubiquitous social network. Facebook executives introduced more than 25 products and tools tailored to help developers “build, grow, and monetise” mobile applications aimed at the social network’s audience of approximately 1.39 billion people. Just revealed: Parse for IoT [Internet of Things], Messenger as a Platform, and the Teleportation Station.” At the same event, Facebook also revealed a new realtime comments system along with the ability to embed Facebook videos on other sites. Perhaps the biggest update unveiled during Zuckerberg’s keynote is that Facebook Messenger — the social network’s chatting tool — is becoming a massive communications hub, where users will be able to do much more than chat with others via the service.

One of the Messenger upgrades was designed to build on Facebook’s move into e-commerce by weaving chat threads into purchases at websites, essentially turning formerly impersonal Internet shopping into ongoing text message conversations. “We’re making Messenger a place where you can easily communicate with the businesses you care about in addition to the people you care about,” Zuckerberg said. The social network will also allow developers to find out who is using their apps, whether most of their games are played by a male or female, are these gamers teenagers and so on. Messenger chats between customers and shops are meant to provide conversation-thread context to buying things; tracking shipments, and handling customer concerns. The push to plant more features in Messenger underscores the growing importance of apps that enable more intimate and direct conversations than social networks.

A noteworthy feature of the growing platform is Messenger Business, which will allow users to communicate with merchants by sending them a direct message or making a reservation and checking shipping information. That is Step 1 in a series — including drones, goggles that plug into virtual reality, and artificial intelligence — Facebook plans to work on in the coming years to broaden its influence.

At the conference, the company showed off nearly 50 apps for Messenger, including one that turns text messages into songs and another that allows a user to search for and send an animated GIF to express a mood. In his presentation, Zuckerberg predicted messaging apps eventually will include virtual-reality technology, something that Facebook acquired last year when it bought Oculus for $2 billion. While the spherical video doesn’t really make much difference on your flat screen monitor, watching it using the VR headset will ensure a 360 degrees spherical video feel as if you are right there. In mid-2014, Facebook acquired video advertising firm LiveRail to make video ads a bigger part of its business, and now the company has started implementing it.

Facebook’s initial partners are the clothing retailers Zulily and Everlane, and the company hopes to lure other types of businesses, like airlines and cable companies, that frequently face customer service issues. “We all have to agree that it’s pretty painful to interact with businesses right now,” David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging products, said in an interview. “We’re bringing back the conversational nature of commerce.” Facebook’s drone team, which came to the company through the acquisition last year of the drone maker Ascenta, say they believe their solar-powered craft can eventually be aloft up to three months at a time, beaming high-speed data from 60,000 to 90,000 feet to some of the world’s remotest regions via laser. Test flights are to begin this summer, though full commercial deployment may take years. “We want to serve every person in the world” with high-speed Internet signals, said Yael Maguire, head of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab. Right now, Facebook’s algorithms prioritise videos in your newsfeed over text and picture posts, so users are more likely to like, comment and share videos for more people to watch. The company introduced a new Analytics for Apps tool that provides a dashboard of data so developers and marketers can better understand their audience. Facebook introduced a software developer kit (SDK) to support the growing influx of web-connected devices for the home, like smart garage door openers and refrigerators.

Others are not so sure. “Like Google, Facebook gets a pass, because they’ve defied critics and are run by visionary leaders looking out five or 10 years,” said Scott Kessler, an analyst with S.&P. Outside of its core services, Facebook owns the future of how we will play video games and watch movies with Oculus, it owns all our pictures with Instagram and even supplies the third-world with internet. Capital IQ. “Still, people would like to know what this costs, and if it makes money.” Facebook is also courting partners with the manner in which it builds new kinds of computers at its data centers.

The idea is that if it is open about what it does and even allows other people to use that information and experiment with their own prototypes, then more companies will adopt that technology and align themselves with Facebook. They collect data about your usage patterns and habits, and typically connect to an app that offers feedback to improve your lifestyle (or your racquet swing, for example). We will service the core needs better than anyone else, for free.” Facebook’s effort in artificial intelligence is called deep learning, for the number of levels at which it critically analyzes information. Facebook says it likes working with competitors on that technology because, in the end, they can help improve it. “There is nothing that any single company is going to solve by itself,” said Yann LeCun, Facebook’s AI research director and a New York University professor. For the long term, Zuckerberg hopes Facebook’s AI will translate languages on the fly, know strangers you might meet and, of course, bring you the highest-value ads. “The fundamental thing about advertising is people paying to get a message in front of you,” Schroepfer said. “That won’t go away in my life, though the form may change.”

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