I started at DataSift a couple of months ago and have just taken my first trip to our San Francisco office. I was lucky enough when I was in town to get myself one of the hottest tickets in Silicon Valley – a place at F8, the Facebook developer conference. Enjoying the sunshine of the city’s marina and mingling with some of social tech’s finest, they weren’t the toughest two days of my career, but they were amongst the most interesting.
The biggest announcements of the event were related to Facebook’s Messenger platform. One of these was the creation of Messenger Platform to allow developers to create apps for Messenger. More than 40 apps have already been built and people on Messenger will soon be able to do things such as sharing gifs using the Giphy app – as demonstrated by a gif of CEO Mark Zuckerberg congratulating his team on shipping the platform.
The other big change to Messenger was the unveiling of Messenger for Business, which hopes to revolutionize the way that businesses interact with their customers. The goal is take us back to a time when dealing with retailers was a personal experience and Facebook thinks this can be done by creating a genuine dialogue between consumer and company. Making that conversation equal with the conversations we have with our friends – and more like a conversation with the owner of our local corner store.
In terms of absolute wow factor, my personal experience with Oculus and the second morning’s keynote from their Chief Scientist, Michael Abrash blew the rest of my trip out of the water. Being immersed in the latest iteration of Oculus’ VR and listing to Abrash speak, I really can start to see how VR’s promise from the last twenty or so years (I remember playing VR games in Leicester Square’s Trocadero as a teenager) might actually be realized in the next few years.
From Zuck’s opening keynote to my last session on data infrastructure, Facebook’s commitment to building a developer ecosystem was palpable. However, the word that resonated with me throughout the event was “people”. Facebook’s mission was stated as “to enable people around the globe to share and connect with each other” and the word “user” was heard very seldom. When you hear Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer talking about the drones they are building in order to bring mobile internet to rural and remote areas you get an understanding of the scale of that mission. It is clear that Facebook sees the limitations on it’s growth (and it’s ability to complete that mission) not so much in terms of the uptake of it’s services by those of us able to access them, but more as a function of the number of people who have the basic technology required to get online.