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FB intensifies focus on privacy with a slew of new products & features

Facebook is taking privacy issue seriously. Speaking at the opening of a two-day Facebook event – F8 – CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his keynote address highlighted how Facebook is building a more privacy-focused social platform by giving people spaces where they can express themselves freely and feel connected to the people and communities that matter most. He shared how this is a fundamental shift in how FB builds products and the company is run. 

Over 5,000 developers, creators and entrepreneurs from around the world came together for F8, an annual conference about the future of technology. 

Zuckerberg then turned it over to leaders from Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and AR/VR to share more announcements. 

Facebook 

People have always come to Facebook to connect with friends and family, but over time it’s become more than that – it’s also a place to connect with people who share interests and passions. Today, changes are being made that put Groups at the center of Facebook and sharing new ways in which Facebook can help bring people together offline. 

A Fresh Design: Facebook is rolling out a fresh new design, FB5, that’s simpler, faster, more immersive and puts the communities at the center. FB has made it easier to find what the user is looking for and get to their most-used features. People will start seeing some of these updates in the Facebook app right away, and the new desktop site will come in the next few months. 

Putting Groups First: This redesign makes it easy for people to go from public spaces to more private ones, like Groups. There are tens of millions of active groups on Facebook. When people find the right one, it often becomes the most meaningful part of how they use Facebook. Today, more than 400 million people on Facebook belong to a group that they find meaningful. The new tools will make it easier for users to discover and engage with groups of people who share their interests. 

Redesigned Groups tab to make discovery easier: Facebook has completely redesigned the Groups tab and made discovery even better. The tab now shows a personalised feed of activity across all groups. And the new discovery tool with improved recommendations lets users quickly find groups they might be interested in. 

Making it easier to participate in Groups: Facebook is also making it easier to get relevant group recommendations elsewhere in the app like in Marketplace, Today In, the Gaming tab, and Facebook Watch. Users may see more content from their groups in News Feed. And, they will be able to share content directly to their groups from News Feed, the same way users do with friends and family. 

New features to support specific communities: Different communities have different needs, so Facebook is introducing new features for different types of groups. Through new Health Support groups, members can post questions and share information without their name appearing on a post. Job groups will have a new template for employers to post openings, and easier ways for job seekers to message the employer and apply directly through Facebook. Gaming groups will get a new chat feature so members can create threads for different topics within the group. And because people use Facebook Live to sell things in Buy and Sell groups, the platform is exploring ways to let buyers easily ask questions and place orders without leaving the live broadcast. 

Connecting with Your Secret Crush: On Facebook Dating, users can opt in to discover potential matches within their own Facebook communities: events, groups, friends of friends and more. It’s currently available in Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina, and Mexico – and is now also expanded to 14 new countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname. 

Facebook is also announcing a new feature, called Secret Crush, which seeks to give an opportunity to explore potential romantic relationships within users’ own extended circle of friends. By choosing to use Secret Crush, users can select up to nine of their Facebook friends who they want to express interest in. If one’s crush has opted into Facebook Dating, they will get a notification saying that someone has a crush on them. If the crush adds the user to their Secret Crush list, it’s a match! And if the crush isn’t on Dating, doesn’t create a Secret Crush list, or doesn’t put the user on their list, no one will know that the user has entered a friend’s name. 

A Way to Meet New Friends: Facebook has created Meet New Friends to help people start friendships with new people from their shared communities like a school, workplace or city. It’s opt-in, so the user will only see other people that are open to meeting new friends, and vice versa. Facebook has started testing Meet New Friends in a few places, and will be rolling it out wider soon. Facebook Groups are also being integrated, making it possible to meet new friends from the user’s most meaningful communities on Facebook. 

Shipping on Marketplace: People will soon be able to ship Marketplace items anywhere in the continental US and pay for their purchases directly on Facebook. For sellers, this means reaching more buyers and getting paid securely, and for buyers this means shopping more items – near or far. 

A New Events Tab: This summer, Facebook is introducing the new Events tab so that users can see what’s happening around them, get recommendations, discover local businesses, and coordinate with friends to make plans to get together. 

Messenger 

Messenger has also announced several new products and features to help create closer ties between people, businesses and developers. 

A Faster, Lighter App: People expect their messaging apps to be fast and reliable. Facebook is re-building the architecture of Messenger from the ground up to be faster and lighter than ever before. This completely re-engineered Messenger will begin to roll out later this year. 

A Way to Watch Together: Messenger will now let users discover and watch videos from Facebook together in real time. They will be able to seamlessly share a video from the Facebook app on Messenger and invite others to watch together while messaging or on a video chat. This is in the testing phase currently and will begin to roll out globally later this year. 

A Desktop App for Messenger: With people wanting to seamlessly message from any device, and sometimes they just want a little more space to share and connect with the people they care about most. Messenger Desktop app enables users to download the app on their desktops – both Windows and MacOS – and have group video calls, collaborate on projects or multi-task while chatting in Messenger. The rollout will happen globally later this year. 

Better Ways to Connect with Close Friends: Facebook Messenger is making it easier for users to find the content from the people they care about the most. In Messenger, a dedicated space is being introduced, where users can discover Stories and messages with their closest friends and family. They will also be able to share snippets from their own day and can choose exactly who sees what they post. This will roll out later this year. 

Helping Businesses Connect with Customers: Messenger is making it even easier for businesses to connect with potential customers by adding lead generation templates to Ads Manager. There, businesses can easily create an ad that drives people to a simple Q&A in Messenger to learn more about their customers. And to make it easier to book an appointment with businesses like car dealerships, stylists or cleaning services, Messenger has created an appointment experience so people can book appointments within a Messenger conversation. 

Instagram 

New ways have been rolled out to connect people with each other and their interests on Instagram. 

The Ability to Shop from Creators: Starting next week, users can shop inspiring looks from the creators they love without leaving Instagram. Instead of taking a screenshot or asking for product details in comments or Direct, users can simply tap to see exactly what their favourite creators are wearing and buy it on the spot. Anyone in Instagram’s global community will be able to shop from creators. Testing will begin next week with a small group of creators, with plans to expand access over time. 

A Way to Fundraise for Causes: People can now raise money for a non-profit they care about directly on Instagram. Through a donation sticker in Stories, users can create a fundraiser and mobilise their community around a cause they care about – with 100 per cent of the money raised on Instagram going to the non-profit users are supporting. This will be available in the US currently, and efforts are on to bring it to more countries. 

A New and Improved Camera: In the coming weeks, a new camera design, including Create Mode, will be introduced, which will give users an easy way to share without a photo or video. This new camera will make it easier to use popular creative tools like effects and interactive stickers, so that users can express themselves more freely. 

WhatsApp 

Business Catalog: People and businesses are finding WhatsApp a great way to connect. In the months ahead, people will be able to see a business catalog right within WhatsApp when chatting with a business. With catalogs, businesses can showcase their goods so people can easily discover them. 

AR/VR 

Facebook has announced a number of new ways in which it is helping people connect more deeply in video calls through Portal. It has also opened pre-orders for Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S. 

Portal Expands Internationally this Fall: Beginning with an initial expansion from the US to Canada, Fecebook will also offer the Portal and Portal+ in Europe this fall. It is bringing WhatsApp to Portal, and will be bringing end-to-end encryption to all calls. Users will be able to call any of their friends who use WhatsApp or Messenger on their Portal, or on their phone. 

Beyond Video Calling: This summer, Facebook is adding new ways to connect on Portal. It will give updates on birthdays, events and more. Facebook is also adding the ability to send private video messages from Portal to one’s loved ones. And, through the collaboration with Amazon, Facebook is adding more visual features and Alexa skills to Portal, including Flash Briefings, smart home control and the Amazon Prime Video app later this year. Users will also be able to use Facebook Live on Portal, so that users can share special moments with their closest friends in real time. 

SuperFrame to Display Your Favorite Photos: Portal’s SuperFrame lets users display their favorite photos when they are not on a call. Users can already add photos to SuperFrame from their Facebook feed, and now they will be able to add their favourites from Instagram as well. Later this summer, the new mobile app will let users add photos to Portal’s Superframe directly from their camera roll. 

Spark AR Expands to More People: Since last F8, Facebook has seen over one billion people use AR experiences powered by Spark AR, with hundreds of millions using AR each month across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Portal. Going forward, the new Spark AR Studio will support both Windows and Mac and includes new features and functionality for creation and collaboration. Instagram will also be opened to the entire Spark AR creator and developer ecosystem this summer. 

Oculus Quest and Rift S Pre-Orders Open: Facebook’s two newest virtual reality headsets – Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S – ship May 21. Oculus Quest, FB’s first all-in-one VR gaming system, lets users pick up and play almost anywhere without being tethered to a PC. For those with a gaming PC, Rift S gets the users into the most immersive content that VR has to offer. Both start at $399. 

Facebook is also launching the new Oculus for business later this year. Oculus Quest is being added to the program and will provide a suite of tools designed to help companies reshape the way they do business through VR.

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