Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference took place a week ago. The one big and bold statement of the conference that stood out for me was the following:
The statement above was made by Regina Dugan, the VP of Engineering, explaining that 60 engineers are hard at work developing a brain-computer interface that will allow for direct translation of our thoughts into text by computers without the need to type them [the thoughts]. Sounds improbable? I would not be surprised if you nod in disbelief. This is one of the many futuristic ideas that were unveiled at the conference, and they are all significant for future existence.
Review of past five years
In case many of us have not been watching Facebook share price since its initial public offering (IPO) on 18 May 2012, here is how it has performed to date:
The share price has almost quadrupled! Remember the many times that Facebook’s demise has been predicted over the last 5 years despite the sterling performance above? The selected articles below may help to jog your memory.
- – 2012: Analyst predicts Facebook will ‘disappear’ in 5 to 8 years
- – 2012: Analyst Predicts Facebook’s Demise by 2020
- – 2014: Facebook will lose 80% of users by 2017
- – 2015: Facebook’s Demise Has Been Predicted Several Times
Safe to say, all the demise predictions have been proven false. So what is it about this company (more accurately, a group of companies) that keeps it outperforming the gloomy expectations? What is the secret source?
The 10-year roadmap
Things were spiced up at F8 2016 Conference – paraphrasing part of Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote – by unveiling the company’s 10-year roadmap, which also formed the foundation for this year’s edition.
I believe that this roadmap has put paid to the demise predictions, and I am going to support this view in the remainder of this blog by showing how the juggernaut has ensured that it becomes an intricate part of future communication technology developments.
Creation and fostering of a culture of innovation:
As the description of F8 goes, this relates to Facebook’s culture of 8-hour hackathons that encourage employees to find time for passion projects. The F8 Conference itself is another incentive for the employees to innovate with a view to showcasing their latest ideas, concepts and products on the virtual global stage.
I would imagine that business divisions with nothing new or improved to display at this annual event that gets attended by thousands of developers – 70% of whom are from outside the US – and is followed by many more thousands of netizens around the world through Facebook Live and updates and online media, suffer from #FOMO as the innovation bus keeps powering ahead.
Facebook made 2 great acquisitions in the last 5 years.
- – Instagram was acquired for $1 billion in 2012. Users on this platform have grown from 30 million since then to over 600 million!
- – Whatsapp was acquired for $19 billion in 2014, with over 500 million active users. See the user growth graph below as proof that, undoubtedly, this is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world.
As can be seen, Instagram and Whatsapp have been experiencing healthy user growths, and there is still scope for more.
BY THE WAY. It is worth noting that the behemoth itself has more than doubled its user base in the last 5 years.
Facebook is taking its mission to connect people beyond the social media space
The company’s mission is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
The theme for F8 2016 conference was CONNECTIVITY, based on a finding that 4 billion of the world’s population is still not connected to the Internet. It is now an accepted fact that access to the Internet has a positive correlation with education, health, economic wellbeing and social equality.
The Facebook Connectivity Lab is developing all sorts of technologies to connect the world. One such technology is the Aquila, a solar-powered Facebook drone with the wingspan that is wider than Boeing 737 but is much lighter in weight. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the first to benefit through connecting of people in remote parts of this region of the continent.
Facebook is creating future markets
By casting its eye as far ahead as possible, the company is involved in the creation of a combination of technologies that will lead to the extension of offerings for current markets – e.g. demand for group-based communication solutions (see Y-axis in the graph below). More importantly, these new technologies are going to develop new markets, e.g. those embracing augmented and virtual realities for immersive experience (X-axis).
Theme for F8 2017 Conference
360 live video, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) were the buzz words in this year’s conference.
While Artificial Intelligence (AI) got its moment in the sun, I suspect it is going to take centre stage next year. There is a lot of development taking place in this space at the moment, but it is still a long way.
What begs the question is whether Facebook is becoming a hardware developer as well, more like adapting the Apple business model. They deny this and point to the fact that they work with many other partners who are reputed hardware companies. But I suppose the true entrepreneurial spirit is shining through – just doing what they need to do to achieve their futuristic goals.
Where to from here?
It is anyone’s guess what will come of the future. One thing is certain, the behemoth called Facebook is increasingly becoming a technology giant that will be one of the key drivers ground-breaking innovations.