Tech Five: Facebook’s f8 event kicks off

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Facebook app made for the network’s annual conference appears to have leaked some of the company’s biggest planned updates..

At Facebook’s F8 developer conference today and tomorrow, the social network will likely use its stage to connect the dots between its disparate products and recent acquisitions. Facebook may have paid $19bn for WhatsApp last year, but its Messenger app is expected to take centre stage at the social network’s F8 conference on Wednesday.Facebook on Wednesday will kick off a two-day conference, aimed at collaborating with thousands of developers on new features for its social network and apps.Having an official companion app for your developers conference might seem like a nice touch to make the tech-savvy attendees feel at home – but Facebook will be the first to tell you it can backfire.

Facebook, whose stock hit a new record yesterday, closing at $85.46, made two high-profile acquisitions in the last year, buying the virtual-reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion and paying a whopping $19 billion for the messaging app WhatsApp. The event, held at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, will delve into a variety of topics including video, virtual reality and Facebook’s popular Messenger app. On Wednesday morning, the official F8 app sent out a notification to users that named some of the stuff that’s about to be revealed later today, including a mystery app or feature called the “Teleportation Station.” “The Garage and Demo areas are now open! Just revealed: Parse for IoT, Messenger as a Platform, and the Teleportation Station.” The alert seen by Multiple people seems to indicate that Facebook will reveal a version of its mobile app building suite Parse for “Internet Of Things” devices.

If the rumors are true, we could soon be able to use advanced photo tools, conduct searches, share travel arrangements and perform other tasks as a part of Facebook Messenger. First things first – Parse is the name of Facebook’s tool for developers that enables them to access the back end of the website and work on integrating their software. According to PandoDaily, 30 companies will be partners in the first phase of the new project, “many of which are focused on gifs, emoji, and multimedia creation”. We reached out to Facebook about the exact meaning of the notification, and the company has “nothing to add on this.” Pointedly, no denial or note that this is a hoax. The report names Giphy, Kaomoji and JibJab as potentially part of that initial group of partners, while a fourth company – video broadcasting app Meerkat – has denied it will be part of the announcement.

Facebook previously said that all its major products would see announcements at F8, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, along with Parse and Messenger. This could mean a greater Facebook presence in things you do already in the home – posting about wanting to watch Breaking Bad could prompt your smart TV to find it on Netflix, for example. “Messenger as a Platform” sounds as though it refers to a further widening of the gap between Facebook and its instant message service Messenger. Facebook is hardly new to the idea of making itself a platform for third-party developers: its website fuelled the first boom in social gaming when companies such as FarmVille creator Zynga were at their peak. Judging by the notification’s text, it may have accidentally been sent early when it should have gone out mid-day tomorrow after the F8 keynote from 10am-11am PST when the major product announcements will be made. According to a recently published screenshot, Facebook also appears to be working on an Android app called Phone that shows information about incoming calls and ignores calls from commonly blocked numbers.

Facebook also worked with a number of streaming music companies – Spotify most prominently – on features to help their users share details of their listening to Facebook. Four years on, and it is Messenger – which has more than 500 million monthly active users – that could fuel a new raft of partnerships for Facebook, which has clearly been watching developments around messaging apps like WeChat, Line and KakaoTalk in Asia closely. If this is actually an accidental but legit Facebook message, it points to the company yet again expanding its horizons to consider how and where it could enable communications between people beyond its core Facebook platform. Follow tech reporters Karissa Bell (@Karissabe) and JP Mangalindan (@JPManga), as well as Mashable’s Twitter account (@Mashable for everything you need to know in real time.

BuzzFeed, for example, is working with messaging apps including Snapchat, WeChat, Tango and Viber, albeit more around running an official profile that links to its news, rather than building apps for them. Any such deals are more likely to be based around its main news feed rather than the Messenger app, although it is possible they could also be announced at F8. And given that today is actually the one-year anniversary of the acquisition, this could be a ripe moment to open up the platform to more input from developers. (There is also a more prosaic option: the “teleportation” hinted at here could refer to developers having a better way of simulating apps.

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