The last time Facebook held its f8 Conference for developers was in 2011 when it announced a reimagining of user profiles with Timeline. Last week, Facebook held its latest f8 Conference, and it showed us how it is evolving again. It's still about connecting the world but not necessarily connecting the world on Facebook.com.
The Backbone for the Mobile Web
A key point for Facebook to developers revolved around Parse, a mobile app developing service acquired by Facebook that helps developers accelerate development and go-to-market. It does this by providing cloud services, so developers can easily integrate push alerts and analytics within their apps.
Parse announced a new feature called AppLinks. AppLinks allows developers to integrate links within apps from one app to another. For example, one could find a recipe in one app and then tap a link to go to another to set a reminder to check out that recipe.
In addition, Parse is getting less expensive, and Facebook promised two-year stability for core developer products, meaning Facebook isn't going to change the rules or the backend for developers who choose to use Facebook products and features within their apps. They now have the promise of stability.
Facebook's also giving developers more ways to make their apps shareable. Users can now privately share apps with friends through Facebook Messenger and like Pages or content of apps through a native, mobile Like button. They can even send a notification to download an app to their phone after visiting a website while logged into Facebook.
To achieve true scale and mobile ubiquity, Facebook knows it can't go it alone. It needs developers to believe in Facebook's ability to help them achieve success and bring their visions to life.
The Go-To Login Choice
Social login has become one of the primary ways for people to create profiles on new services, and the vast majority (45.1%) of users prefer to log into new services using their Facebook IDs. It gives the benefit of not having to create yet another username and password to remember while pre-populating profiles with information from other platforms to streamline profile creation. Still, Facebook has a trust issue, and logging into a service using Facebook means that a user is not only sharing his or her information with Facebook but also the third-party platform he or she is logging into.
Facebook has taken steps to be a more approachable login solution. It announced Anonymous Login, giving users the ability to log into a website without sharing information with third-parites. If they like the service and see value, they can then upgrade their profiles using the full Facebook Login experience, which now allows them to choose line-by-line which information they want to share and which information they don't. Of course, this means developers will not get the precious data on their users who choose Anonymous Login. However, it will mean better conversion rates for app usage and sign-ups.
Facebook wants to be the choice of convenience and ease when users explore the web outside of Facebook.com. If it can do that, it doesn't matter to them if you're on their website. They still get the data, while you get convenience.
A Web of Advertising Opportunities
One of Facebook's greatest challenges is its limited real estate for advertising. It wants to protect user experience by avoiding too much advertising in News Feeds, and Facebook's mobile experience doesn't have a right rail for additional advertisements, meaning less inventory. This led Facebook to announce its Audience Network.
The Audience Network is Facebook's in-app mobile ad network that allows advertisers to target users within mobile apps using all of the targeting Facebook has provided in the past from interests to likes to demographics. It also offers features like custom audiences.
If it works, Audience Network has the potential to help from all angles. Facebook increases its ad inventory dramatically. Users do not risk exposure to even more ads on Facebook.com, developers are given yet another tool to monetize their apps and advertisers gain more opportunities to leverage Facebook targeting across the mobile space.
Achieving Web Ubiquity
Facebook has made it clear that Facebook.com is just one property to leverage its platform. It aims to spread across the web from mobile to desktop. We've seen it position itself as the single identity that ties together users' online lives, making it less about connecting them with the people they care about and more about connecting them with the things and experiences they seek out across the web. It's doing this with a new tone and approach to giving uses control over who gets their data and what they share.
Facebook needs developers to make this happen. It hopes that with these announcements at f8 and a reinvigorated commitment to serving developers that it can get them on board. Of course, this is the dream of others from Google to Amazon. Facebook sees its life as a social network reaching its pinnacle. Now, it aims to leverage that position to spread across the web and thrive in a post social network era. This has implications for users, developers and especially, marketers.