App Development

F8 Conference Recap: Six Important Announcements

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Important Announcements From Day One

Messenger Platform

Facebook announced the release of its Messenger Platform and Send/Receive API. The platform and API allow businesses on the Facebook Platform to interact directly with users (now 900 million users) on an opt-in basis.

The Messenger Platform allows organizations to interact with Messenger users through the implementation of Bots and/or the integration of existing CRM solutions like ZenDesk. Current brands launching April 12 include CNN, 1-800-flowers, Spring, Uber, and Lyft.

Important numbers:

  1. According to Nielsen, Messenger was the No. 1 app in the US last year
  2. Users share more than 60 billion messages per day with Messenger
  3. Global SMS volume is estimated at 20 billion per day.
  4. Messenger has over 900 million users

In conjunction with the platform release, Facebook also released a bot engine powered by Wit.ai, a startup acquired by FB last year. The Bot Engine, Wit.ai, uses Artificial Intelligence services like Natural Language Processing. Developers can quickly create and deploy intelligent bots to the Messenger app.

Facebook made several basic recommendations for top experiences, such as combining text and graphic elements to create a more user friendly experience. Facebook, also recommended a hybrid approach to customer service interactions. A hybrid approach would combine human and bot interactions when communicating to users.

The Messenger Platform also includes Messenger plugins for apps and websites. The Send to Messenger plugin allows a user to jump from in-app to in-Messenger experiences without losing context. Another plugin includes the Message Us plugin that immediately initiates a message experience between the company (bot or human) and user in Messenger.

LIVE API

  • Facebook LIVE is a direct competitor to Periscope
  • LIVE API connects video devices to the Facebook Live user experience in Facebook
  • LIVE API is an easy way to stream video from devices, like drones, to a Facebook user page

Account Kit

  • An alternative to Facebook login
  • Streamline on-boarding for everyone
  • Kill the email+password

Account Kit is a new SDK for user authentication. If a user doesn’t have a Facebook account or doesn’t want to login using Facebook, an app can provide Account Kit as an alternative login.

Account Kit’s user flow is simple:

  1. User is prompted for phone number
  2. An SMS message is sent to the user with a 6-digit code
  3. User enters code into the app
  4. User is granted access

AK aims to replace the email+password login flow. Plus, research shows that consumers in emerging markets use their mobile number as internet ID - not email addresses. The SDK for iOS, Android, and Web were released April 12th. The SMS service used to distribute codes is free up to 100,000 messages per month.

FB also provides a redundant service in areas with poor SMS service. FB will attempt to verify the phone number across FB users. If a message is dropped, FB will deliver the code to the user’s FB account.

The app Saavn , reported a 33% increase in user registrations per day.

Other Announcements From Day One

Facebook Save

  • Allows a user to save content from web/apps to facebook for later viewing
  • Similar to Instapaper

Facebook Analytics For Apps

  • Facebook Analytics for Apps is expanding and improving with new features and a redesigned interface.
  • “People Insights” provides aggregated demographic info about users including their Facebook Page likes, education level, relationship status, and purchase behavior.
  • “Sharing Insights” shows the most popular stories shared from your website, the demographics of the people doing the sharing, top quotes, and sentiment analysis.
  • Beta support for sending free, customizable Push and rich In-App Notifications

Free Basics

Free Basics is Facebook’s platform for connecting underserved rural populations, a number estimated to include 3.5 billion people. Facebook has made Free Basics available in 37 countries and made it open to any developer to build on.

Important Announcements From Day Two

React Native Coming to Microsoft UWP & Samsung Tizen

  • Facebook continues to open source its developer tools
  • 250,000 developers use or have downloaded React / React Tools
  • Microsoft UWP and Samsung Tizen will soon support React Native
  • Microsoft UWP support extends reach of these native apps to market of 270 million active Windows 10 devices

Facebook will be releasing SDKs for the Microsoft UWP and Samsung Tizen operating systems. The company reported that over 250,000 developers are using the React Framework or React Tools in its various forms.


“As the company announced at its F8 developer conference today, React Native has now been used by more than 500 companies and developers who published apps to Apple’s app store, and more than 200 companies and developers who published apps on Google’s Play store (React Native for Android is newer, which explains at least some of this difference in numbers).” - TechCrunch


React Native is the fastest growing open-source project of 2015. Both of these projects have only been announced. Actual SDKs are expected to be released soon.

Tip: Keep watch of the Decoded Conf on May 6th for more React-Native / MS UWP announcements

VR Will Be Cool & Will Be Social

  • A lot of investment in tech and content
  • Facebook is trying to bolster the ecosystem
  • Amazing Demo: Watch here (jump to 16 minutes 30 seconds)

With the purchase of Oculus several years ago, Facebook staked its claim in the VR world. The keynote featured a very compelling Oculus demo that Facebook labeled Social VR. During the demo, keynote speaker, Mike Schroepfer interacted with another researcher in Menlo Park. At times the interaction was goofy, but we encourage you to watch the video. It might be years away, but VR will be a new way to deliver media to users in a very social way.

Wit.ai & Messenger Bots

  • Messenger Platform provides access to 900 million potential customers
  • Wit.ai provides Natural Language Processing
  • Released Messenger Send/Receive SDKs for iOS, Node & Android
  • Messenger Platform is for more than just bots.
  • Messenger Send/Receive API can be integrated into CRMs and e-commerce platforms.

Facebook released the Messenger Platform Send/Receive SDKs for Node, iOS, and Android. This allows developers to build intelligent bots to integrate with Facebook’s Messenger App.

Why would you consider a bot for the Messenger Platform?

  • Your organization already uses Facebook as a communication platform
  • In some cases, a bot can provide a better user experience
  • What industry wouldn’t benefit from access to 900 million people?
  • Bots can remove the friction of downloading a separate app
  • Bots can make services and experiences more accessible

The Messenger Platform provides a number of UI elements and interactions for bots and users. The elements include text, images and structured templates. When used together, bots on Messenger are more than just a text-based, command line driven interaction. Check out Poncho the Weather cat.

How Wit.ai and the Messenger Platform compare to other tools and services is yet to be determined. But our developers are actively experimenting with multiple platforms to determine the features and benefits of all the competitors.

Other Announcements From Day Two

Advancements in Artificial Intelligence

Facebook continues to push the limits of AI and test experiments in it’s platforms regularly (6 million predictions/second). Facebook demonstrated the utility of AI early last week with news about Facebook’s ability to tag images with relevant text labels. These labels can then be spoken by a device to blind and visually impaired users; improving the online experience for millions of users.

Facebook is also experimenting with technology to tag videos, recognize locations and translate text into other languages.

Everyone Should Be Thinking About Accessibility

App accessibility for the visual and hearing impaired are no longer edge-cases. Facebook is making a very compelling business argument for adoption of these features. And, Facebook is making it easier for developers to pull in native functionality. Here are some numbers.

  • 39 million people are blind
  • 245 million people are visually impaired
  • Over 1 billion people with disabilities

This is a very large audience. This is arguably your audience. See the presentation here.

Willow Tree is proud to have built one of the best examples of accessibility implementation in an app to help bring the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) programming to life.

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