Is The Future Really Private? Takeaways From Facebook’s F8 Conference

Published on May 4, 2019

The future is private. Or at least that’s what Facebook wants you to believe. This was the overarching theme of Facebook’s F8 conference this week, their tenth annual conference for developers.

“Privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves,” Mark Zuckerberg declared at F8.

Amidst the swirl of privacy concerns and criticism from the past year, Facebook has been under fire from just about everyone. In his keynote, Zuckerberg laid out his vision for a more privacy-focused experience across all of Facebook’s apps, including Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, and more.

In order to achieve his vision, Zuckerberg outlined six facets that will be implemented: encryption, private interactions, safety, reducing permanence, secure data storage, and interoperability. What’s even more interesting? Zuckerberg now wants to combine Facebook’s family of apps into one single-use experience, something that’s been in the works for the past year.

Here are key things you can take away from F8 about changes across Facebook’s family of apps in the coming year.

Facebook’s Site Redesign Ends The Newsfeed Era

We already covered this here, but one of the most notable announcements at F8 was their plan on moving away from Newsfeed and making Facebook more community focused.

Facebook’s new design across mobile and desktop, called FB5, was acknowledged by Zuckerberg as “one of the biggest changes to the app and website in the last five years.”

You’ll now see events and groups tabs, each with personalized feeds. Another redesign? A slight update to the Facebook icon.

Despite just being announced, this change has been in the works for awhile and has already sparked some upheaval within the company: Chris Cox, Facebook’s longtime Chief Product Officer who also championed Newsfeed, left earlier this year.

Instagram Ups Its Feature Set

Instagram’s new updates made it clear that Facebook is trying to position the app to be an e-commerce hub. “Our mission is to connect you with the people and things you love,” explained  Instagram CEO Adam Massari. Read about some key updates below.


Earlier this spring, Facebook opened up the ability to buy products directly from Instagram. It’s clear that it was just the beginning of Instagram’s role in E-commerce. Now, users will have the ability to shop looks from creators (read: Influencers) and buy what they’re wearing on the spot.

Massari also announced a new shopping channel, which you’ll be able to find directly under the “explore tab” right in the app.

Camera Updates  

One of Instagram’s most notable new features will be its updated camera with “Create Mode”, which allows a story to be built with stickers, drawings, or text, a departure from requiring Instagram Stories of the past to incorporate photos or video.  

Messenger Updates

“Over the next year, we plan to make messenger the fastest private communication app on the entire planet.” This was how Asha Sharma, director of Messenger Consumer Product began her introduction of new features on the first day of F8’s keynote. Messenger has become more integrated with how we communicate with friends in the past few years, and Facebook is looking to embed it into daily communication even further. Here’s how.

Interoperability and Privacy

Sharma announced that Messenger will soon implement interoperability features, meaning that users will be able to message and call their friends on Instagram and WhatsApp, all without leaving the app. Messenger also will have a Friends tab, where users will be able to see what their friends are doing and sharing across Facebook’s family of apps. “This starts to give you a sense of what is possible of interoperability between services”, said Zuckerberg.  

Messenger also announced encrypted messages, a nod to their privacy theme of the keynote.

Design and App Changes

Facebook’s Project Lightspeed has aimed to create a lighter, faster Messenger app. Many mobile users know that the current Messenger app is over 100MB, a heavy lift for storage space on anyone’s phone. “We’re completely rewriting our codebase,” said Sharma.

Another notable development was Facebook’s announcement of building a standalone desktop app for messenger, something Zuckerberg noted during his keynote that was requested by numerous users over the past few years. This is likely a nod to current competitor desktop apps, like iMessage for desktop.

Advancing AI Technologies for Content Moderation

Facebook’s AI tools have generated much controversy and criticism in recent years over whether they can actually moderate harmful content. On Wednesday, Facebook CTO Mike Shroepfer spoke in-depth about Facebook’s commitment to improving AI across its family of apps.

“The challenges we are facing range from things like election interference to misinformation to hate speech. These are deep broad problems with adversaries, so they adapt over time,” admitted Shroepfer in the second day of the keynote.

Shroepfer announced Facebook’s push into advancing AI technologies like computer vision (CV) and natural language processing (NLP) that power the behemoth’s automatic detection systems, while also building new, self-supervised AI tools that are less reliant on labeled data.

What’s Next For Facebook After F8

Facebook F8’s interoperability push underscores an everchanging technology landscape and a push to have its apps connected and become an integral part of a user’s everyday life. With a massive re-org and a push for privacy amidst growing criticism, we’re interested to see what Facebook does next.

Ayse is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She is a digital-marketing professional with experience in paid media advertising, SEO, writing and analytics. She's worked with numerous brands in the digital space, honing her digital chops at places like Edelman, McGraw Hill Education, Abbott, and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. In her spare time she enjoys hikes with her dog Belle and wondering when the newest season of Stranger Things will premiere on Netflix.

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