What we can learn from Facebook’s F8 2015 conference?

Abi Morrish, Digital Engagement Director at MEC UK, interprets the signals Facebook emitted to the wider industry at their F8 developer conference and what themes might be shaping their future.

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The Facebook F8 conference was heralded as the one of the most exciting yet. Indeed, certain announcements like the opening up of the messenger platform to create an app-ecosystem would have seen some developers akin to a kid let loose in a candy store.

However, Facebook Developer Conferences are so much more than just a developer’s playground. They’re a huge nod to the direction of Facebook’s future and the opportunity for Zuckerberg to land some not so subtle messages to the wider digital, tech and advertising industries.

So what was Mark really telling us at F8?

‘The fight for video supremacy isn’t the end goal’

What has dominated Facebook’s journey into video is the obvious encroachment on YouTube’s territory, and it isn’t relenting on pushing its native video player. Facebook made some key announcements around its video product at F8, but by far the most important was the arrival of the long overdueEmbedded Video Player – an interactive video player that allows publishers to embed any public video from Facebook onto their websites (yes, it really has taken this long, and yes of course they will be looking to commercialise these new video streams).

Embedded video makes the threat much more real for Google, and the purchase of LiveRail (Facebook’s SSP) as well as the F8 news that it’s extending this to publisher’s mobile apps, is a serious indication that Facebook wants to become the dominant back-end systems operator for digital advertising – by keeping both publishers and advertisers very happy. Also, it’s another head-to-head contest with Google by taking on their DoubleClick’s platform for publishers.

This is precisely what the end goal is; Facebook want to build out its advertising stack beyond the Facebook platform alone. Video supremacy is merely one move in hooking in advertisers and publishers into a much longer, and more strategic, game to own back-end systems operations.

‘We understand the need for utility’

The first indicator that Facebook wanted to add actual utility to brands and advertisers outside of its traditional advertising was its announcement of Facebook At Work. Coincidentally, a strong theme that came out at Adweek Europe 2015 was the importance of swimming upstream and talking to clients about their products. Facebook has taken this concept and executed to the sentiment by adding ‘Businesses on Messenger’.

Businesses on Messenger will allow consumers to communicate directly with representatives from companies that they interact with/buy goods from, instead of using more traditional approaches like phone or email. It will specifically allow users to receive real-time shopping updates, tracking and confirming orders via instant message conversations. Essentially, it adds value to a core part of the business process outside of marketing.

So whilst they have successfully demonstrated a role beyond entertainment for consumers in the past (think ‘Safety Check’ for natural disasters and the worldwide appeal for Ebola donations), it’s now having to demonstrate it can do the same for brands.

Our Facebook fortress is impenetrable’

Perhaps lost under the jumble of more racy announcements was Facebook’s near obsession with security. Zuckerberg went so far as to edit the old Silicon Valley adage ‘move fast and break things’ to ‘move fast with safe infra’.

However, tactics of the battlefield weren’t too far away as Jennifer Henley, director of security operations in Facebook’s security team, explained, sharing how they scatter USB sticks labelled “confidential” around the companies’ offices in order to see which employees are tricked into inserting them in their computers.

One would think that further rigour should perhaps be taken in the hiring process rather than setting booby traps for employees, but with both Twitter and Snapchat having recently been effected by some very high profile hacks and information leaks, their efforts to create a culture of high security are understandable.

‘Don’t call us a social media network’

Facebook don’t want to just be a social media platform anymore, what we’re hearing loud and clear is that they’ve outgrown that somewhat restrictive label.

Some have gone so far as to say Facebook want to control everything you do on the internet, and what with a full family of apps and technology including augmented reality (Oculus Rift), a set of SDKs that act as the backend brains for IoT projects (Parse for Internet Of Things) and Aquila – a drone designed to help provide web access to even the most remote regions of the planet, it will soon become very difficult not to interact with them in some way or another.

Many have been quick to point out that details and actual execution are somewhat lacking on these products. Currently it’s a very inviting shop window of a store that’s not yet open for business.

So whilst F8 was probably the most exciting conference to date, F9 is going to be even better. F8 was all talk, inspiration and intent and F9 has to be action, execution and proof.

In the meantime, look up Facebook on Wikipedia and you still get “Facebook (formerly Thefacebook) is an online social networking service.” I can hear the sound of Zuckerberg grinding his teeth from here. Maybe next year Mark.

If you’d like to chat to Abi further please contact her through the @MECUK Twitter handle