Sensing the displeasure of its developer community over the controversies in which Facebook found itself embroiled in recent times, from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal to Russian meddling in the US presidential election, the social networking giant has now promised more steps to stop abuse of its services.
Delivering the keynote address on the inaugural day of the two-day F8 developers’ conference in San Jose on Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was taking a broader view of its responsibility by not only giving people powerful tools, but also making sure those tools are used for good.
He promised new services that bring people together in meaningful new ways across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus.
With a focus on building trust with the people who use its products, Facebook said it was making several important improvements to its policies and programmes for the developer community.
“We are re-opening our app review process after making some changes to make it more comprehensive and grounded on ensuring that each of our APIs creates value for people, is transparent and builds trust,” Facebook said in a statement.
Among the biggest announcements made on the first day of the conference was Facebook’s plans to build a “Clear History” privacy tool which will enable users to see the websites and apps that send information to Facebook when they use them.
The tool, Facebook said, will also enable the users to delete this information from their account, and turn off Facebook’s ability to store it.
There is also some good news for WhatsApp users as Facebook said it will bring group calling to the popular mobile messaging platform.
In a move that could pose a challenge to popular dating apps like Tinder, Facebook said it was building a feature for dating and relationships within the Facebook app.
“People already use Facebook to meet new people, and we want to make that experience better,” the social networking giant said.
With this new feature, users will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends.
They will have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.
However, what people do within the dating feature will not be shown to their friends.
Facebook said it will begin testing this feature later this year.
The social network also announced a new feature for Crisis Response, a centre it announced last year where people can get information about recent crises and access features like Safety Check, Community Help and Fundraisers.
“Today we’re introducing a feature that will enable people affected by a crisis to share firsthand accounts of timely information, like road closures and damage photos and videos, making it easier to get real-time updates. The feature will be rolling out later this year,” Facebook said on Tuesday.
To make it easier to donate blood, Facebook also announced a “Blood Donations” tool.
“In a few weeks, people in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be able to view nearby blood donation camps, requests for blood donations and blood banks from one place on Facebook,” the social network said.
Facebook said it was making its Oculus Go virtual reality (VR) headset available in 23 countries at a starting price of $199.
The lightweight device is launching with over 1,000 apps, games and experiences, it said.
At F8, Facebook also unveiled Oculus TV which will be launched later in May with partners like Pluto TV, Red Bull TV, and the Facebook video app for TV — and even more partners like ESPN coming later this year.
To help small and large businesses reach out to 1.3 billion people who use Messenger every month, Facebook announced the launch of an Augmented Reality (AR) tool for them.
With this tool, the businesses can leverage the “Camera Effects Platform” to easily integrate AR into their Messenger experience, bringing the virtual and physical worlds one step closer together.
Facebook’s F8 is an annual two-day event where developers come together to explore the future of technology.