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1. A brand new Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's F8 Conference 2019. Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the first day of Facebook’s F8 2019 conference yesterday. The two-day event brings together Facebook developers and creators to discuss current and future products. It’s also where Facebook reveals its company aims for the year ahead, and in 2019, that focus is privacy.

(Quick fact: In German, “Zucker” is “sugar” and “Berg” is “mountain.” Guys, he’s Mark Sugarmountain in Germany!)

Privacy

  • In his keynote speech opening, Zuckerberg confessed, through laughter, “I know we don’t have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly.”
  • Facebook has been hit by a string of privacy scandals in the recent past (Wired).
  • But the CEO declared “the future is private,” and outlined several steps Facebook was taking to ensure its platform delivers this.
  • Facebook will take “a more proactive role in making sure that all of our partners and developers use our services for good” — great to hear.
  • It’s also “Replumbing” Facebook’s technical infrastructure to support the new privacy vision. Again, great to hear, and best of luck with that.
  • Further, Facebook noted it was working on “reduced permanence,” i.e. ways to avoid permanent records of everything people do on the site, and “secure data storage” in the pursuit of greater privacy.

As well as internal company changes, Facebook is making changes to its product portfolio too. Some concerned with privacy, others not so much.

A screenshot of the new white Facebook design for desktop. Facebook

Facebook:

  • Facebook is dropping its classic blue stylings. In a new redesign, Facebook will implement a white, more iOS-like color scheme without the typical blue highlights. Facebook’s iconic, erm, icon, will keep its color, though.
  • With the new design comes a greater emphasis on “communities.” This means you’ll getting redesigned groups tab making them easier to participate in, and a more personalized news feed. (Android Authority). The Android and iOS apps will reflect the change from today while the browser version will be upgraded in the coming months.

Secret Crush:

  • “Secret Crush” is a new feature coming to Facebook via the Facebook Dating platform it has been developing (Android Authority). It’s hitting The States later this year.
  • Secret Crush will allow a user to select up to nine Facebook contacts they have the hots for, notifying those users that *somebody* is into them. If that user also happens to select the same person as one of their secret crushes, a Messenger conversation will open to let them begin a dialogue. It’s an opt-in feature.

Facebook Messenger:

  • Facebook Messenger is getting end-to-end encryption by default now — certainly a privacy win. Meanwhile, the company is also rebuilding the app to make it faster and lighter (Android Authority).
  • Facebook says it wants it to be the “fastest private communication app on the entire planet.” (was Messenger ever slow?) It’s also coming this year, along with a desktop version.

Instagram:

  • Facebook is trialing a “Hidden Likes” feature for Instagram. This would allow users to disable likes from being displayed on their images or videos, taking the focus away from popularity and back to the actual content.
  • The uploader will still be able to see the like count, however. It’s being tested in Canada and will likely roll out elsewhere if it proves popular.

Facebook reaction emojis in a line on a phone.

A watershed moment for Facebook?

  • Facebook wants to regain user trust and it aims to do so with increased privacy measures: sensible!
  • Better still, there seems to be more behind this move than visible measures like enforced message encryption: it looks like this will run in the veins of the whole business.
  • But these are mostly just nice sentiments right now and its efforts will be hard to track. How will we know if the folks at Facebook HQ are taking privacy seriously?
  • We may see fewer scandals in the coming months — does that mean Facebook users are safer or that Facebook is getting better at disguising poor practices?
  • Ultimately, I can’t imagine a time when Facebook won’t rely on *some form* of data collection and sharing, but I’m hopeful it will become less of a concern over time. Don’t forget corporations have used our data for decades but that doesn’t mean it’s always for ill (Business News Daily).
  • One thing that did rub me up the wrong way was Zuckerberg’s “the future is private” remark, though. It’s not like privacy became desirable only in the last year or two: it has always been a concern for humanity. Facebook just missed the memo.

For a broader overview of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and AR/VR, check the highlights here (Facebook Newsroom). Or watch the keynote in 12 minutes thanks to this supercut (The Verge).


2. Alphabet announced board member Eric Schmidt will not seek re-election once his term ends on June 19, 2019. Schmidt served as Google CEO from 2001 to 2011 (Android Authority).


3. OnePlus shows off OnePlus 7 Pro camera samples (Android Authority).


4. Morbid study estimates more dead than living Facebook users by 2070. Some say its users are already zombies… (LiveScience).


5. BBC outlines some of the psychological tricks of airport design. Very interesting and a bit scary. “Some airports such as Gatwick and Heathrow only tell you which gate to go to 25 minutes before departure to maximize shopping time.” I wonder if my recent flight delays were just a ploy to coax another Toblerone purchase out of me (BBC).


6. Apple is telling lawmakers people will hurt themselves if they try to fix iPhones (Motherboard).


7. Also on Apple: iPhone sales continue to slump as services surge (Tom’s Guide).


8. Tesla sued over fatal 2018 Model X crash with Autopilot engaged (Engadget).


9. Oculus Rift S and Quest will launch next month and pre-orders are now open (Gamespot).


10. Valve’s Index VR headset will officially cost $999, and here’s what it’s all about (The Verge).


11. Microsoft, Slack, Zoom, and the SaaS Opportunity (Stratechery). Some food-for-thought on how Microsoft last week (briefly) became “the third U.S. company, after Apple and Amazon, to achieve a market capitalization of over $1 trillion.”


12. What is a true fact that sounds like a conspiracy theory? (r/askreddit).


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