Hi! My name is Ali, I am a Product Manager at Gawker Media, and I’m currently writing this blog from 36,000 feet above sea level. This year I was given the opportunity to attend the Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco, and I couldn’t be more excited to learn about what FB has in store for the future of their platform! At Gawker I am the product lead for the Off-Platform team, whose main focus is working on new ways to deliver Gawker Media content to our audiences— last quarter we launched email newsletters, got our sites running on Facebook Instant Articles, and now we’re currently working on Google AMP.
So what’s next?
I think one of the most fun parts about working with the Off-Platform team is that the landscape is constantly changing, products to help publishers are always evolving, and thus I am traveling to F8 to learn as much as I can, and if I’m lucky MAYBE try on an Oculus. In order to keep my thoughts organized and recap the conference, I figured creating a blog would be the best way to document my experience. I’ll be posting periodic updates for the next few days about everything I see, hear, learn, etc.— so please check back to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Today is day one of F8! And here’s part of my schedule:
Today’s focus for me is mostly about Facebook’s plans for Messenger with a small side of Video (most likely some info on Facebook Live) and a News Feed session. I am so excited to hear about what is in store for Messenger, I have a suspicion we are going to hear about it being used as a media outlet, and if that’s true I am really looking forward to hearing more about how publishers can best utilize the platform to get their content out there. Will it be breaking news? Can people subscribe to your site? It’s all up in the air at this point!
OK, I have to apologize for the lack of “live” updates today, today’s big post is going to be more of a recap, and I promise I will try better tomorrow. First of all, F8 really lives up to the hype, everything from the installation artwork to the incredible snack spread is something to marvel at.
I’m not kidding, when we walked in to the main auditorium for the keynote, there were two enormous refrigerators full of diet coke and redbull, and shelves full of candy bars and chips. I ignored the snacks at first and went straight for a seat— surprisingly the event started right on time, and at 10 a.m. sharp, Mark Zuckerberg came out on to the stage to talk about Facebook’s plan for the future.
The topic of the keynote was Facebook’s 10 year roadmap, the main goal being to give everyone the power to share anything with anyone. Zuckerberg touched on many of Facebook’s prominent and emerging products, including the Messenger Platform, Oculus, and Facebook Live. He also spoke about an initiative called Facebook Aquila, which is a solar powered, carbon fiber drone that is going to beam internet down from 60,000 feet to areas of the world that would otherwise have little to no connectivity to the web.
The middle of the roadmap consisted mostly of Messenger Platform, 360 Video, and Facebook Live. And my suspicions were correct about Messenger... there will be publishers on there, both CNN and Wall Street Journal have chat bots available on the platform today! But how will it actually deliver news? It seems as though the future of publishers using messenger is up to media companies to help define. The API for building a send and receive Messenger BOT was opened to the public immediately after the keynote, and I am so excited to learn more about how content providers can work with that platform. As for Facebook Live, its pretty much what everyone is talking about at the conference this year, almost every panel I have been in today talked about Buzzfeed’s exploding watermelon video, and how Live video actually has the power to bring almost 1 million people together at the same time, consuming the exact same thing. The big announcement about Facebook Live was that they are opening up the Live API to give users the ability to stream live to Facebook from any device. Some of Facebook Live’s launch partners include the Mevo Camera, and DJI (which built the drone that was live streaming the conference today.)
The far end of the roadmap touched on Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality, with plans to allow people everywhere to connect with each other, speak with each other, and play games with each other, even if they are half a world apart. Facebook really did give us a good look at their 10 year roadmap, and they are going to spend the remainder of F8 breaking down each initiative and diving a little more in depth. Tomorrow I’ll be reporting more on the individual sessions and panels, and I WILL bring my laptop charger with me so I can actually “live” blog this time. Until then, enjoy this nerdy picture of me wearing a VR set:
Its is Day 2 of F8, and here’s my schedule:
Today I’m also going to explore more of the Developer Garage, which includes an Oculus Rift and Touch Demo, a Facebook Live Stage, the 360 Camera which Facebook debuted yesterday, and some really cool installation art that is constantly moving and changing color above the entire room. There’s also a second, hour long keynote today, I’m not sure who will speak or what the focus will be now that most of the major product announcements have been made. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see!
Ok so F8 is officially over, and now I finally have some time to share some of the highlights from the sessions and panels I attended. On the first day I spent most of the day in the media tent, learning about everything from the future of video, to how to create the best value for publishers. Video at Facebook was the hot topic of the day yesterday, everyone was buzzing about 360 Video, and how to get users more immersed in content. And I must say, after trying an Oculus for the first time, I am amazed at how immersive the experience is. Flying over active volcanos and surfing a pipeline were both surprisingly thrilling experiences viewed through a VR set, and to be honest I never really thought it was that exciting before. Consider me converted.
There was also a lot of focus on Facebook Live API becoming available to the public.
We were even shown some examples of how partners like CNN have used the API integration to improve their live videos. Through a collaboration with Telescope, CNN has started to actually include comments and interactive polls within the video itself, further increasing the audience’s ability to engage with content. Another one of the partners, Mevo, has created a camera specifically for shooting Facebook Live videos. This camera replicates the experience of multiple cameras, and you can do all of the editing in real time from your phone, that includes cutting, panning, and zooming during a broadcast.
The next part of the day was all about creating value for publishers. This session was near and dear to my heart because the main topic was Facebook Instant Articles. If you haven’t tried an Instant Article yet, head to the Facebook App on an iOS or Android phone, type in Gawker in the search bar, and click the first article you see that has a lightning bolt icon overlayed on the cover image. Once you click that article it will load instantly, almost 7 times faster than a normal page on mobile web. According to Facebook, Instant Articles have 20% more clicks, and users are 70% less likely to abandon an article. In addition, Instant Articles are shared 30% more times than regular mobile web articles on Facebook.
There were two big announcements at F8 regarding Instant Articles: the first being that now any publisher, regardless of size, can put their content in IA format. They’ve even partnered with Wordpress to create a plugin for users to make it even easier to get publishers’ content up and running on IA. The other big announcement is that branded content is now allowed on Instant Articles. For these specific posts, publishers can tag their sponsors within the post, create custom bylines and kickers, and included the sponsored brand’s logo, as well as the publisher’s logo. A native toolset to help with all of these tasks is in the works.
That covers the majority of my first day of sessions at F8, although I have to add that one of my favorite bands just happened to be playing the end of day party. A big shout out to CHVRCHES for entertaining us! I’ll be updating more ASAP about social plugins, VR, and finally my experience using Oculus Rift + Touch.