At F8, Facebook‘s annual developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed his vision of building a privacy-focused social network as he debuted the newest version of the company’s core app.
Zuckerberg said the redesigned Facebook, version FB5, will make navigation easier, load time faster, and provide a cleaner appearance. The new version also encourages private interactions within groups—part of Zuckerberg’s vision to make the social network the “digital equivalent of a living room.” The updated mobile app is rolling out now. The desktop version will be released in the next few months.
The news came on Monday as part of a number of product updates announced during F8 at the San Jose Convention Center.
“This isn’t just about building features,” Zuckerberg said. “We need to change a lot of ways we run this company.”
The changes built on six priorities for the company that Zuckerberg announced in March: private interactions, encryption, reducing the permanence of posts, improving safety, creating the ability for users to communicate between Facebook’s family of apps, and securing data storage.
The new direction follows heavy scrutiny of Facebook’s management of user data. The company has been plagued by public data breaches that have captured the attention of regulators worldwide.
In Facebook’s latest earnings call, the company announced that it expects to pay the Federal Trade Commission a fine of up to $5 billion for allowing political data firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest information from up to 87 million Facebook users in 2016. That information was used to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Zuckerberg didn’t dodge the issue at F8.
“I know we don’t have the strongest reputation on privacy right now,” he said. “But I’m committed to doing this well and starting a new chapter for our products.”
Here’s a look at other Facebook news from the first day of F8.
Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, detailed some of the ways Facebook’s update will encourage group interactions.
New features include the ability for members within groups to anonymously post questions and share information. It also rolled out a new template for professional groups to post jobs on Facebook, allowing members to message the employer and apply through the app. And gaming groups will get a chat feature so members can create threads about specific topics within a group.
Though “friends” are currently central to the Facebook experience, that’s about to change. With the launch of the updated app, “Groups are now at the heart of the experience,” said Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg also mentioned that Facebook is working to downplay recommendations from groups known for spreading misinformation, and deleting groups that break the company’s community standards.
Facebook is also expanding into the dating game, with a new feature that will let users create private lists of their “secret crushes” within their circle of friends.
Users who opt into Facebook dating can add up to nine Facebook friends to their list of crushes. If any of their crushes express mutual interest on their secret list, they’ll both be notified. If the friends listed as a crush are not on Facebook Dating, no notifications are sent.
The company has already rolled out Facebook dating in 14 countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname. The feature will roll out in the U.S. by the end of 2019.
Messenger’s New App
Facebook Messenger also got an overhaul, with a faster Messenger mobile app, an all-new desktop app, and some new features for business users.
The mobile app takes up less space, making it faster to load and respond. Its new desktop app, which works both on Windows and MacOS, allows users to host group video calls and collaborate on projects.
For businesses, it created an automated system that allows customers to book an appointment through Messenger.
“People’s communication styles are migrating toward messaging way faster than anyone thought,” said Stan Chudnovsky, head of Messenger. “And people want to communicate with businesses the same way.”
Facebook is also developing features that will allow Messenger users to message and call people on Instagram and WhatsApp. The company did not announce a launch date for the feature.
Facebook introduced new features for users and businesses.
WhatsApp now allows users to share their location with their friends and family via the app. Zuckerberg said locations, like the messages on WhatsApp, are encrypted.
For businesses, the company rolled out product catalogs, allowing customers to view a list of products within the chat. It also allows customers to purchase an item directly within the app. The payments feature is testing in India and will be available in a “number of countries” this year.
Instagram updates focused on giving users the ability to shop and fundraise within the app, and be more creative with their stories.
Users can now raise money for charitable causes with a new donation sticker. Facebook says 100% of the money raised on Instagram will be donated to users’ nonprofits of choice. The fundraising option is similar to what is already available on Facebook. It is now available on Instagram in the U.S.
Next week, Instagram plans to debut a new feature that will allow users to tag items so that other users can purchase them directly within the app. Instagram made this feature available to retailers last month.
Finally, the Instagram camera will be updated with “create mode.” The setting will allow users to post effects and interactive stickers without having to also record a video. The new feature will launch in the next few weeks, Facebook said.
Instagram is also testing hiding the total amount of likes a post receives. Zuckerberg said this to encourage connection between users versus posting photos and videos for likes.