F8 Refresh: It’s All About Developers

By Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, VP Platform Partnerships

F8 began as an 8-hour developer hackathon in 2007 (the ‘8’ came from our traditional eight-hour hackathons). Over the years, we added new industry tracks and introduced iconic Facebook consumer products. But as the event evolved, we heard from an increasing number of developers who wanted us to share the technical content that would help them build, innovate and grow on our platforms. 

This year, after a brief pause in programming in 2020, we’re bringing F8 back to its roots as a true developer conference. As we look to the future, it’s helpful to take measure of the progress we’ve made on our ultimate goal of helping developers find innovative solutions for connecting people. That’s why the announcements covered today are focused on Facebook technologies designed to unlock new opportunities for developers and businesses around the world to build and grow on our platforms.

Business Messaging and Tools

Our vision is for messaging to be the primary way people and businesses communicate. Making it is as convenient, unobtrusive and personalized as possible, using the same familiar apps and features used to communicate with family and friends today.                                                                                

Our first step towards this vision was announced at F8 in 2016 — when we launched the Messenger Platform as open APIs. 

The Wait is Over: Messenger API for Instagram is Available to All Developers

Instagram is not only a cultural and social hub — it’s a place where people come to discover and connect with brands. 90% of people on Instagram today follow at least one business, and messaging is a key reason why. Whether it’s story replies, direct messages, or mentions, engaging with brands is increasingly appealing for customers and important for businesses.

Today, we are excited to open up the Messenger API for Instagram to all developers, allowing brands to offer messaging experiences on Instagram. With these new features, businesses can integrate Instagram messaging with their preferred applications and workflows. This can drive more meaningful conversations that increase customer satisfaction and grow sales.

Connect With Customers Quickly and Easily Using the WhatsApp Business API

Every day, more than 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account to discuss products and get customer support. As more people turn to WhatsApp to connect with businesses, we’re announcing new updates that will make it easier for businesses to get started using the WhatsApp Business API and for people to easily chat with these businesses: 

  • Faster onboarding: We’ve cut down the time it takes for businesses to get started on the WhatsApp Business API by reducing the onboarding process from weeks to just five minutes.
  • Get more information from businesses: People are interested in receiving additional information on WhatsApp, like updates on when the COVID-19 vaccine is locally available. We’re improving how businesses can communicate with their customers as more companies use WhatsApp. We’ll support more types of messages — letting people know when an item is back in stock, for example.
  • New messaging features: New interactive messaging features: We’re rolling out new messaging features to give people a simpler way to make a selection when speaking with a business’s chatbot on WhatsApp. These include List messages, so people can make a selection from a menu of up to 10 options, and Reply buttons, so people can make a quick selection with just a quick tap.

Login Connect With Messenger

Facebook Login offers a convenient way for our billions of global users to log into business’ apps and websites. Now, with Login Connect with Messenger, customers will be able to opt into messaging with businesses directly from the Facebook Login flow.

Among test participants who enabled Login Connect, we’ve so far seen more than 70% of users opt in to messaging. With this vital source of new customer conversations, businesses can deepen their engagement with people through messaging by offering more personalized and efficient customer care. This feature is currently in closed beta and will be widely available in the coming months. 

Facebook Business Extension – A Developer Platform for the Business Apps You Build

Last year, we introduced the Facebook Business Suite – an all-in-one platform for businesses to manage their activity on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger using our first party tools. 

Now, we are introducing Business Apps. We will be adding 3rd party tools – built by developers just like you – into Facebook Business Suite. We believe the tools you build are fundamental for the success of businesses, and we’re excited to help you integrate and scale your offerings by bringing them to the hands of millions of businesses on Facebook Business Suite.

To integrate and showcase your business apps in Facebook Business Suite, we offer a developer platform called Facebook Business Extension. It’s the solution for developers and businesses to make integration with Facebook Business Suite simple. In the coming months, we’ll grow the ecosystem of apps by inviting our developer community to apply for early access.

Creator Tools: Spark AR – Empowering a Global Community of AR Creators

At F8 2017, we introduced Spark AR Studio, our flagship AR creation software that lets anyone design and deploy AR effects across Facebook apps and devices.

Spark AR is the largest mobile AR platform in the world — more than 600,000 creators from 190 countries have published over 2 million AR effects on Facebook and Instagram. 

Over the past few years, the Spark team has added new capabilities that extend the fidelity of what’s possible in mobile AR, the latest including updates to target tracking and segmentation. 

Today at F8 Refresh, Spark AR continues to work toward its larger vision that brings our digital and physical worlds closer together, and previewed its new Multipeer API. For the first time, creators will be able to build effects that deliver a coordinated experience across multiple call participants. For example, effects could be designed to deliver a shared sense of space, like a hangout in space or around a campfire, or even support lightweight gameplay. This new long-form capability opens up exciting new possibilities for creators and developers to build AR experiences for video calling on Messenger, Instagram and Portal. 

The Spark AR team highlighted several new use cases for AR effects in video calling, ranging from lightweight games to celebratory moments. If you’d like to get involved, Spark AR is now accepting applications for its AR Video Calling beta. 

PyTorch: Our AI Framework of Choice

PyTorch is an open source machine learning framework that accelerates the path from research prototyping to production deployment. Co-created by Facebook AI researchers in 2016, in collaboration with many other AI leaders, the platform embraces a philosophy of openness and collaborative research to advance state-of-the-art AI. 

Before launching this framework, the path for taking AI development from research to production historically involved multiple steps and fragmented tooling with poor interoperability. PyTorch helped remove these gaps and today, we are helping to build a PyTorch ecosystem to fully streamline the end-to-end developer and researcher experience. 

In fact, today we’re announcing that we’re making PyTorch the default framework for building all of our AI and machine learning models. PyTorch not only makes our research and engineering work more effective, collaborative, and efficient, it also allows us to share our work as open-source PyTorch libraries and learn from the advances made by the thousands of PyTorch developers all over the world.

Whether you are a new developer or seasoned AI pro, there is something for everyone on PyTorch and it’s easier than ever to get started using the framework.

Investing in the Future

Every year, during F8, we donate money to an organization working to diversify the tech industry. This year, we’re donating $250,000 to Girls in Tech, a global nonprofit organization focused on diversity, equality and inclusion through skill-building and job search resources for women with a passion for technology to help accelerate growth.  

In case you missed it, you can check out the F8 Refresh keynote and sessions on demand, and get updates on our biggest moments on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #F8Refresh.

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