Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had lots to talk about during the opening keynote for the social network's F8 developer conference, being held at Ft. Mason in San Francisco today. The three main announcements concern the Facebook Live API, Account Kit SDK, and Agents for Messenger. Let's dig in.
The Facebook Live API promises the most potential. The company has been pushing hard to expand the scope of its Live Video feeds -- or live video streamed from smartphones directly to the Facebook newsfeed. Facebook only recently expanded Live Video to all US users on Android and iOS devices (Facebook first tested the platform with celebrities). The Live API will increase the scale of compatible cameras to drones, and every other internet-connected camera. To demonstrate the power of the API, Facebook had a DJI drone stream live video of Zuckerberg's keynote address on the large screen in real-time. The company didn't immediately reveal too many details about the Facebook Live API, but rest assured it is central to the company's 10-year vision.
The Account Kit SDK should make developers happy, too. If you were excited by Twitter's Digits SDK back in 2014, think of the Account Kit SDK as Facebook's answer to Digits. The idea here is to make it simpler for people to log in to apps via Facebook. It's already a cinch for developers to add Facebook login, which allows people to use their Facebook credentials to authenticate an app. Facebook's Account Kit will rely on only the user's phone number. This means developers can ask people for just their number, rather than complete Facebook login, to authenticate apps. It should reduce friction in the on-boarding process. People give the app their number, receive a text message with a code, enter the code, and are allowed to log in sans username and password. Granted, full Facebook logins provide more detail for developers, but allowing phone numbers could help increase the overall user base.
Bots are Facebook's other big revelation. The company today said it is partnering with companies and brands to bring bots to Messenger. Officially, the toolset is called Agents On Facebook. Some initial partners include 1-800 Flowers and KLM airlines, which will allow people to converse with bots to order flowers and book flights.
Bots have suddenly surged in popularity. Facebook's Zuckerberg said huge leaps in artificial intelligence and natural language sound processing have made bots a realistic option for companies who rely on computers to interface with customers, rather than real people. Bots will be able to offer complex responses using multiple sentences and paragraphs, and even include images, diagrams, and call-to-action buttons for the real people on the other end of the conversation.
Facebook says the bots program is limited to several launch partners to start, but it should expand rapidly soon.
Developers should not underestimate the power of Messenger. Zuckerberg claims Messenger and WhatsApp together handle some 60 billion messages per day. That's three times as many messages as all SMS service provides combined. Messenger has 900 Million users. That's a significant portion of the planetary population. If you've ignored Messenger to-date, it's time to get on board the Facebook Messenger train. It's fully loaded and headed to Successville.