The theme for F8 this year: lowered expectations
Type with your brain. “Hear” with your skin. And in the event of an emergency, here’s a helicopter to the rescue with some free internet access. The marquee announcements of last year’s F8 developer conference found Facebook at the peak of its ambition, as Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives sketched out a vision in which Facebook delivered bleeding-edge technology powered by state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and a thriving developer ecosystem.
Then the person leading the brain-typing and skin-hearing efforts quit the company after 18 months, the Cambridge Analytica scandal caused public trust in Facebook to plunge, and the company scrambled to shut down wide swathes of its developer platform. Plans to unveil a home speaker at F8 were reportedly canceled at the last minute over fears that it would further roil a public already skeptical of Facebook’s data collection practices.
The bruising series of events leading up to F8 is expected to produce a more muted affair than in previous years. (Much of the event had to be reworked in recent weeks after the company began shutting down APIs, people familiar with the matter told The Verge.) On one hand, the event, which takes places Tuesday and Wednesday in San Jose, is still very much on. Facebook says it’s the biggest F8 ever, with more than 50 sessions available to a record crowd of 5,000 attendees.
But the company acknowledges that the event comes at a time when Facebook is radically rethinking its relationship with those developers. “We’ll always make the important platform changes, trying to strike the right balance between creating compelling social experiences, protecting people’s data, and supporting an innovative developer ecosystem,” said Ime Archibong, vice president for product partnerships at Facebook, in an email. “These changes can be disruptive. But Facebook developers are incredible partners and help us ensure the platform enables experiences that are both social and safe.”
It remains to be see whether the company will get a warm reception from partners who have been blindsided by the changes.
Justin Krause runs a startup named Pod that builds a smart calendar app for iOS. Until this month, the app integrated with Facebook to put events from the social app onto your calendar. Then, in the wake of this month’s Congressional hearings, Facebook revoked Pod’s access to the calendar API without warning.