Don’t look now, but Facebook, The Social Network, is fast becoming a multi-faceted, platform-as-a-service cloud provider.
At its ninth annual F8 developers’ conference March 25 at Fort Mason in San Francisco, the social network announced the following:
—that it has launched a new app development platform based on its original Messenger that will enable video exchange, payments and a list of other functions to be handled within messaging, rather than Web-based apps;
—that it will soon provide support for “spherical videos”—immersive, 3D-like videos for its standard news stream;
—that it has made available a free Analytics for Apps application; and
—that it has added an embedded video feature that enables users to take embed code from a Facebook video and put it directly into a Website.
Now More Than Just ‘the Blue App’
Whew. There’s still a full day left in the F8 conference—what could be next? We’ll find out.
“Facebook used to be this single blue app,” co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his leadoff keynote. “It did a lot of different things. Now Facebook is a ‘family of apps.'”
We’ll get into the detail of what Zuckerberg was talking about a bit later in this story. Meanwhile, here are overviews of each of the above items:
—Messenger Platform: Launched March 25, this new package enables developers to add Messenger features to other apps, whether they’re running on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or Blackberry. “Messenger Platform is for building apps that help people connect,” Zuckerberg said.
Third-party app developers using Messenger Platform now have a better way to reach Facebook’s millions of users on any device they use. Apps built on the platform install the Messenger service directly into the existing ecosystem of iOS and Android apps. This ostensibly makes Messenger a direct competitor with other messaging platforms, such as Chatter, Jive, Jabber, WeChat and Line.
Last week, Facebook revealed an all-new payments system on Messenger that enables users to send and receive money directly on it, instead of using email or another Web app. Thus, complete buying or selling transactions can be accomplished on a single messaging thread, rather than several non-connected email or Web-based interactions. “Easier for the user” is what is driving all of these app changes.
Facebook said it plans to promote these integrated apps in its own app store.
Here is a listing of the first group of Messenger Platform parters: Action Movie FX, Bitmoji, Cleo Video Texting, Clips, ClipDis, Ditty, Dubsmash, Effectify, EmotionAR, Emu, ESPN, FlipLip Voice Changer, Fotor, GIF Keyboard, GIFJam, Giphy, Hook’d, Imgur, Imoji, JibJab, Kanvas, Keek, Legend, Magisto, Meme Generator, Noah Camera, Pic Stitch, PicCollage GIF Cam, PingTank, Pyro!, Score! on Friends, Selfied, Shout, Sound Clips, StayFilm, Stickered, Strobe, Tackl, Talking Tom, Tempo, The Weather Channel, to.be Camera, UltraText, Wordeo.
How Facebook is Evolving into Platform-as-a-Service Provider
—Analytics for Apps: This new free-of-charge service, which went live March 25, provides insight for developers, marketers and enterprise users on an app’s customer base, engagement, usage behavior and campaign performance to help owners maintain user retention.
This could become an invaluable tool for developers in short order. Facebook says that by using Analytics for Apps, developers can understand how users are using the same apps cross-device, something that was not possible previously. The tool also provides demographic data, such as age, gender and location, of users.
Marketers will love this, too. Analytics for Apps measures ad performance to show the value of current campaigns and how to improve them in the future. By providing a native analytics app for free, Facebook is competing directly with Google, Amazon and a list of other paid analytics measurement tool providers.
—Support of “spherical video”: Spherical video, as Zuckerberg called it, is new-gen, high-definition video that uses up to 24 cameras in order to provide an immersive, 3D-type visual experience. It is based on the company’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, which makes this technology. Facebook is taking this IT out of the bulging headsets needed to experience it and making a version available for the network’s news feed.
—Embedded video connection: Starting March 25, users will see an embed option button on their videos. Users will be prompted to copy and paste the necessary HTML code onto their Website, should they desire to place the Facebook video there. This, of course, gives Facebook even more latitude to reach viewers than ever before, and at zero cost to it.
In the past, the only way to share a video hosted on Facebook was to link to that Facebook page or share it through the platform itself to fellow users.
The two video updates are indicative of Facebook’s greater move toward improving the overall video experience, thus putting some pressure on YouTube, which owns some 95 percent of the public video upload market.
Facebook’s ‘Family of Apps’ Doing Excellent Business
Zuckerberg was magnanimous in his “thank-you’s” to the worldwide community of Facebook developers, and he should be. The applications that his team and all their supporters are building and maintaining on a 24/7 basis have paid off with astounding users totals.
Facebook’s “family of apps,” as Zuckerberg called it, includes 1.4 billion users per month for the primary Facebook application, 700 million users each for both Groups and WhatsApp, 300 million per month for photo-sharing app Instagram, and 600 million for dedicated messaging platform Messenger.
The numbers are certainly impressive. Some of the key metrics Zuckerberg shared during his keynote:
—Facebook has paid more than $8 billion to developers over the past five years.
—Facebook drove more than 3.5 billion app installations in 2014.
—The social network’s users shared 50 billion pieces of content from apps last year.
—More than 30 million apps and Websites use Facebook’s developer tools.
—More than 90 percent of the country’s top 100 grossing iOS and Android apps let users log in through Facebook.
—65 percent of FB’s 3 billion daily video views come from mobile.
—53 percent of videos viewed come from shares.
The final day of F8 takes place March 26.