Big new features coming for Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram – plus Oculus Go is out now.
Facebook is absolutely ubiquitous, but thanks to reports of mishandled data and its impact on the 2016 U.S. election, the company hasn't looked too great in recent months.
But today marked the start of Facebook's annual F8 developers conference, and the social networking giant used the occasion to try and start making amends for the data issues while also introducing key upgrades across multiple apps (including Instagram and WhatsApp). They even released a VR headset!
Quite likely, these changes and upgrades will impact the way you communicate with friends and share your life online, and some are starting to roll out now. Here's a look at the biggest announcements and enhancements that emerged from F8 2018.
1) CLEAR HISTORY IS COMING
The data scandal has a lot of people rethinking how much they're willing to share online, and we probably all know a couple people who have abandoned ship on Facebook over the last few weeks. Luckily, the company sees the concern and has plans to give users more control over their data.
Facebook announced plans to build a Clear History feature, which will provide more information about what kind of personal data is being shared with apps – and more importantly, it actually lets you do something about it. You'll be able to delete info and remove apps' access, and ensure that your personal data stays personal.
They're just starting in on the feature, however, so it'll be a few months before we see the fruits of their labour.
2) FACEBOOK STARTS DATING
On the other hand, if you're perfectly keen on Facebook being all up in your personal business, here's another way that the social networking service might be able to help you out: by trying to find you a prospective partner.
That's right: Facebook is launching a dating service right within the main website and app. Mark Zuckerberg said that it's completely optional and your profile will only be shared to people who aren't already your friends. You'll be able to share events and interests, and even unlock your profile for viewing by potential dates. The feature will begin testing later in 2018.
3) MESSENGER'S GETTING SIMPLER
Facebook has packed feature after feature into Messenger over the last few years, but now they're changing course: the mobile app is about to be streamlined and simplified.
Phew. While Messenger is plenty usable, it's overloaded with features that many of us don't need or care about. Facebook showcased a new version that looks a lot simpler and sleeker, focusing on your conversations while removing some of the cruft. It also looks more colourful if you like your app to pop, or you can enable a dark mode (as seen) if you please.
The revamped Messenger app should be available "very, very soon," according to Messenger vice president David Marcus.
4) WHATSAPP GETS GROUP CALLS
Video calls are immensely popular on WhatsApp, but as of now, you're limited to just two people per video chat. Luckily, that's changing: group video calling is inbound, allowing up to four people to share the screen and gab while seeing everyone else's beautiful mug.
WhatsApp will also finally add stickers – something that it's well behind the curve on – plus third-party developers can create their own for the app. No word on when we'll see either of these features go live, but we can't imagine it'll be too long.
5) INSTAGRAM WILL ADD VIDEO CALLING
Wait, video calling? In Instagram? Why?
In a seeming move to make every social app do everything, Facebook also announced plans to add video chat to Instagram, allowing both two-person and group calls. We're not sure why a photo and video-sharing app needs video calls, but here we are.
Luckily, the other new features make a bit more sense for Instagram: augmented reality camera effects are coming, with certain AR effects made available based on who you're following Also, they're working on redesigning the Explore section to make it easier to find things that you're into.
6) OCULUS GO IS OUT TODAY
We figured that Oculus would provide launch details about the Oculus Go today. Instead, they went ahead and released the headset!
Indeed, the self-contained, roughly Samsung Gear VR-quality headset is out now starting at US$199, offering access to the same library of apps and game as Samsung's mobile platform. We've already given the Oculus Go the full review treatment, and unfortunately, we found its budget hardware just a bit underwhelming. But it is affordable and approachable.
Oculus will also soon launch an Oculus TV app, which works much like the Netflix VR app but for other services – like Hulu, ESPN, and Showtime. Essentially, it puts you in a virtual room with a big, flat screen streaming whatever you've chosen. And you'll be able to access Netflix and other video apps from within this launcher, as well.