Facebook’s F8 highlights: Groups, commerce, AR & more
Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, took place last week. Its overwhelming theme, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is that “the future is private.” Here are some of the highlights:

  • Reprioritising the Facebook News Feed – it will focus on meaningful and relevant Groups – more on this subject in our blog post from last week, here.
  • Facebook’s new design - it emphasises the community elements of the platform, again with a focus on Groups.
  • Likes going dark – Instagram is testing removing public likes from photo and video views, apparently with the user’s wellness in mind- see below for more on this.
  • Messenger updates – it’s getting lighter, redesigned to highlight Stories, adding a desktop app and even has a jazzy new tagline: “modern-day social network built around Messaging”.
  • Seamless social-commerce – such as the expansion of Instagram’s in-app shopping feature to the Explore page and allowing influencers to sell items directly to people viewing their posts and Stories (currently in the US, in beta).
  • WhatsApp’s business agenda – the app will introduce product catalogues so that those who use the business app can show their products to potential customers.
  • AR and VR - Facebook is expanding its developer platform Spark AR to both Windows and Mac (previously Spark AR was only available on Mac). And on the VR side of things, pre-orders opened for the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S.

But while F8 was all about privacy, what it was definitely not about was privacy bants, as Zuckerberg learnt the hard way.

Facebook promotes high-quality content
Facebook’s trying to improve the quality of content being seen on the platform. It’s tweaked its algorithm to prioritise videos that focus on original content, where users are engaged for longer periods of time and where users return again to watch more. The change is designed to pull out ‘high quality’ content instead of stuff that might be unoriginal or repurposed. Those participating in Sharing Schemes - “content mills” that produce large amounts of superficial website content to drive clicks - will also find their content demoted.

Facebook tests Creator Studio Dashboard for Instagram
Facebook is testing a new way for creators to manage their output with an Instagram Creator Studio dashboard. It would be added to the existing Facebook Creator Studio app and would allow those using it to access a range of analytics metrics (which are currently available in Instagram business profile tools) and give them access to a combined asset library to be used across both Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram tests hiding like counts
In one of the more controversial and headline-grabbing F8 updates, Facebook confirmed that it was testing hiding public Likes from Instagram. It’s been positioned as a move to improve the way people feel about what they post: “We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get”; but the cynical amongst us may think more data for Instagram, less for the rest of us - especially when it comes to influencer marketing. They’ve also redesigned profiles to make follower count much less prominent.

Let’s show some enthusiasm for Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans
Sorry to bring you this ‘news’ for what feels like the hundredth time, but Facebook is secretly developing a cryptocurrency, say always-reliable unnamed sources. Apparently, Facebook has spoken with "dozens of financial firms and online merchants" as it seeks to raise about $1 billion in investment and enlist partners to help launch the system. The plans are being developed under the sexy code name of 'Project Libra’; whether this means it’ll be born to the world between 23 September and 23 October remains to be seen. But I really hope so.

Twitter unveils new video partnerships
Most people on Twitter are pretty passive, preferring to watch the action unfold than get involved. The platform wants to change this and to get people engaged so has announced more than a dozen new partnerships from sports, entertainment and news to help it reach its lofty goals. The partners, which include Live Nation, ESPN and the Wall Street Journal, will build exclusive video content on the platform to get users to “lean in”.

Twitter boosts retweets
This feels like something that should have happened years ago, but in fact, it was just yesterday. Twitter users can now add images, videos, and GIFs to their retweets / quoted tweets. Twitter’s excuse for its sluggishness was that it was a design challenge, but they made up for it with this terrifying announcement GIF.

YouTube CEO addresses creator concerns
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has been reaching out to aggrieved creators on the platform via a blog post. The issues include copyright claims removing ads from videos, the trending section not showing some of the most popular uploads, and comments being removed for family vloggers. In her post, Wojcicki outlines (occasionally vague) plans to address the above, but no doubt it’ll still be a hot topic of conversation in the company’s forthcoming Creator Summit in New York.

Google tests shopping links on YouTube
It’s not just Facebook who’s ramping up its commerce game – Google wants a slice of the pie. The platform is testing shopping links under YouTube videos, which direct the user to Google Express – its online marketplace.

YouTube Originals removes subscription fee
Thankfully it’s not all about taking our money this week – Google is kindly giving a little too. YouTube Originals is becoming fully free and ad-supported, which means you’ll be able to tune into its new content, including a long-awaited project with Justin Bieber, without forking out £11.99 a month. YouTube’s chief business officer Robert Kyncl commented: "While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction and now have more opportunities than ever to partner with advertisers and share our critically acclaimed Originals with our global audience."

Verizon looks to offload Tumblr
First bit of news: Verizon owns Tumblr. Second bit of news: it’s apparently selling it. If, like me, you were unaware of Tumblr's parentage; Verizon ended up with the platform in its portfolio when it bought Yahoo back in 2013 and at the time, Yahoo owned Tumblr. Tumblr’s had a rough time of it lately, with its ban on porn nearly destroying the platform, but perhaps a new, less corporate owner might be able to give it some much-needed mouth-to-mouth (no porn puns intended, promise).

Sure creates first recyclable tweet
Sure, in partnership with Twitter, has created the first recyclable tweet in order to promote the fact its cans are, in fact, recyclable. The activation will start with a tweet of a Sure can, which, when retweeted, will reveal a reimagined aluminium item. As this continues, the retweet chain will showcase the infinite objects Sure can be recycled into, such as wheels, water bottles and golf clubs. Who knew?!

ASOS gives Thea the last laugh
Heart-warming community management story of the week: when Thea Lauryn Chippendale was insulted over Tinder about her choice of dress, she shared her outrage on social and ASOS, retailers of said dress, leapt into action. They messaged Thea: “Here's to finding our perfect match. Thea babe, let's talk. Check your DMs." The clothing giant then snapped up the image of Thea (looking ?) to advertise the product on their site.

Live stream your blind date with Zhenai
What follows an awkward threesome between social media, reality TV and dating apps? Zhenai, that’s what! It’s a Chinese dating app that – amongst other dating-related offerings - allows people to live stream their first date for the world (or Zhenai users) to see. Sometimes the parents even get involved for ultimate awkwardness. It’s like hosting a reality dating game show in real time and the format has proven popular for the ever-growing app. What a note to end this week’s mashup on. Does life really get any better than this?