Facebook’s F8 conference was a cringe-worthy PR exercise to reclaim privacy

Watching Zuckerberg crack jokes about Facebook’s ongoing privacy issues sends shivers up your spine. Not even the “whoop, whoop” crowd paid to be there could save some of the side-handed “jokes” that leapt from his lips to fall upon a stunned and deafeningly quiet crowd.

“The future is private”, or so the text says as it’s emblazoned on a 50″ screen towering behind Zuck on stage and with each repetition of the word by Zuck and his department cohorts, its meaning lessoned.

“I get that a lot of people aren’t sure that we’re serious about this.”, Zuckerberg says early on. Damn skippy we aren’t and you’ve lost the right to expect anyone would at this stage, which is a shame because amongst the rhetoric were some actual promising developments in areas such as VR, cyber bullying and a real contender for a truly platform agnostic, single messaging service, so let’s focus on those.

Unifying Messenger

Messenger has already one of the most used messaging platforms in the world but its dominance is about to become all that larger. The further unification of Facebook’s messaging platforms will continue with WhatsApp and Instagram messages centralised into the Messenger interface.

The app has also been completely re-written weighing in at just 32MB, or 20% of its current size on iOS. The new version will also allow for more group functionality like watching Facebook videos with friends and ushers in a new (and official) desktop Messenger app for Mac & PC due to arrive later this year.

Instagram’s ideas to tackle online bullying

We all know how toxic the online world can be, and whilst a lot of companies talk a big game when it comes to tackling the issue, when it comes to practicing what they preach the results just aren’t there cough Twitter cough. With that’s said it was genuinely nice to see an Instagram head talk about the issue and some of the ideas the company is experimenting with to either lower bullying or those that need to, avoid it.

One simple method to curb the toxicity of a user was the idea of “nudging” them after posting a comment that was inappropriate. No blocking, no ban, simply a prompt to perhaps rethink what they’ve done and how it may affect someone else before pursuing the issue further.

Another idea shown was an “Away” mode. This is not unlike people taking a break from social media by perhaps removing apps from your phone but instead mutes it without the anxieties some might experience through deletion.

This week the company is experimenting with hiding like counts, for users opting into it, to further reduce social anxieties as well as making follower counts less prominent to not emphasise what could be interpreted as popularity pressures.

They’re small steps but they’re a start and by far one of the more sincere portion of the presentation.

New Oculus VR headsets

The new self-contained & completely cordless Oculus Quest VR headset alongside the upgraded Oculus S model were announced for pre-order at the conference. Both US$299 the Quest is an all in one console that is ultimately underpowered and not really worth investing in (in my opinion) but does offer that truly wireless VR experience.

The Oculus S is the upgraded flagship which introduces inside-out tracking doing away with the need to stick cameras around your room. It’s still tethered and and its optics remain the same but it’s lower in price and a great entry point for VR.

FB Dating

Leaving the worst for last, Facebook’s foray into the world of Tinder feels to me like a gigantic shit-storm waiting to happen. A new “secret crush list” allows you to list a bunch of your dating friends in a “private” list that if they add you to will match you both. I can’t wait they find a bug in this one that exposes everyone’s lists.