“Safety,” yes; “sorry,” no: What Mark Zuckerberg did—and didn’t—say in his F8 keynote
At Facebook’s annual developer conference on Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg sought to reassure the developers building third-party apps that all is well with the social network, while not ignoring the massive data scandal that had him explaining himself on Capitol Hill just weeks before.
Taking the stage to a round of applause in San Jose, California, Zuckerberg acknowledged that it’s been an “intense year” so far. (To recap: January saw an algorithm change that affected major publishers, February brought the first ever drop in daily active users, March included the revelation that roughly 87 million Facebook users had their information shared improperly with data broker Cambridge Analytica, and April saw Zuckerberg testify before both houses of Congress.) But as is always the case with the F8 conference—and, perhaps, to move the world’s attention to more positive developments—Zuckerberg shared a look at a slew of new features coming to Facebook and its other products, like Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Oculus.
Zuckerberg stayed remarkably on message throughout the keynote, which repeated certain ideas and motifs throughout. Here’s a tally of some of the key words and phrases he mentioned (and those that were notably absent), and why they matter.
Word or phrase: safety, security, data, data privacy
Why it matters: In hopes of making people feel more comfortable that Facebook shares their treasure trove of personal data with app developers and advertisers, the company will soon introduce a new way for users to delete their browsing history.
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Called Clear History, it will initially let you see which websites and apps send data about you to Facebook and then enable you to delete this information. It will also allow you to switch off Facebook’s ability to store that kind of data in the first place.
“This is the kind of control we think people should have,” Zuckerberg said.
Word or phrase: Congress
Why it matters: Rather than ignoring the fact that he recently testified before Congress, Zuckerberg turned it into a bit of a joke by showing a clip of his testimony as an example of a new feature called Watch Party, which lets Facebook friends watch streaming videos together and interact. The company had announced earlier this year that the feature was in testing.
“Now you’re going to be able to bring your friends together and you can laugh together, cry together,” Zuckerberg said, adding that some of his friends actually did that while he was speaking to Congress in April. (Speaking specifically of his own experience on Capitol Hill, he added, “Let’s not do this again anytime soon.”)
Word or phrase: optimistic, idealistic
Why it matters: Despite its issues, Facebook has plenty to be happy about. The company is still by far the world’s largest social network, with over two billion active monthly users (nearly 1.5 billion users per day). In fact, despite some calls online to delete Facebook, it gained 70 million users during the first quarter of 2018 and earned $4.99 billion on $11.80 billion in revenue.
Word or phrase: bring people closer together/bring the world together
Why it matters: As Zuckerberg noted, one in three US marriages starts online, and millions of people list themselves as “single” on Facebook—but the social network has never built a dating app. Until now.
Zuckerberg said that in the near future the company will let Facebook app users opt in to creating a dating profile. Your friends on the site won’t see it, he said, and you’ll only see others who have also opted in to the dating service.
It’s clear Facebook doesn’t see this as a casual dating effort; Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, took the stage a bit later to say that Facebook hopes people will use it to find partners.
Product: Oculus Go
Giveaways: 1 (to everyone attending F8)
Why it matters: Zuckerberg revealed that a $199 version of its pioneering virtual-reality device is now available to the public, and he announced to great fanfare that every F8 attendee could go home with one. Facebook’s hope is that releasing this all-in-one VR headset at a fairly affordable price will make it an easy entry point for the public to start experimenting—and become comfortable—with VR devices.
Word or phrase: Sorry (or any other apology words)
Why it matters: Some may have been put off by Zuckerberg’s lack of a direct apology about the chaos surrounding Facebook’s recent data scandal and subsequent changes, such as Facebook’s decision to restrict how much access the apps you connect to Facebook can have to the data you share.
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