When CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes to the stage at Facebook's F8 developer conference this year, he won't be talking about the social network, but about an ever-growing list of products ranging from mobile messaging to virtual reality.
Facebook is booming. Its stock price is soaring. Its revenue is expected to rise 37% in 2015 as it continues to capitalise on the move to mobile and it has spent almost $25bn in recent years to expand its range of products including messaging service WhatsApp ($21.8bn), virtual-reality company Oculus ($2bn) and photo-sharing app maker Instagram ($1bn).
To reflect this expansion, its F8 developer conference this year is taking place over two days with over 2,000 developers expected to fly into California for the event which kicks off on Wednesday, 25 March, with Zuckerberg's key note.
Here we cover what we expect to see the social media giant talk about about, and how you can follow it all online:
F8 - What to Expect
- LiveRail-based ad platform
Among the lesser known of Facebook's acquisitions in recent years was video ad tech startup LiveRail which it purchased in July 2014. What we could see announced at F8 is an expansion of that service to sell ad space for other companies.
This could be a hugely powerful tool for Facebook, putting it in direct competition with Google's ad exchange and Twitter's MoPub. While a lot of the attention will be focused on Oculus Rift and WhatsApp developments at F8, for analysts and investors, what Facebook does with LiveRail will be much more important as it could significantly boost its revenues.
- Facebook Phone
Not a piece of hardware but a new app which Facebook is said to be testing called Phone which would allow you make and receive phone calls without having to leave the Facebook universe at all. Facebook wants to own the mobile space and along with Messenger, Phone could allow it to expand its control over your smartphone experience.
The native dialler app would likely only work on Android as Apple's iOS is a very closed system. It is said to automatically block numbers which are commonly blocked and would work even if the person you are calling is not using Phone - which will be worrying for carriers.
- News content within Facebook
Widely reported in the last week, according to the New York Times, "Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site."
Initial partners are said to include New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic. This will be a major leap of faith for media companies who rely heavily on Facebook to help drive some of their 1.4 billion users to view their work.
- Oculus Rift release date
This will be what grabs all the headlines, and Facebook has even set aside a special half hour keynote just for virtual reality-related news on Thursday, 26 March. What everyone wants to hear is a specific release date (and maybe even a price) for the consumer version of Oculus Rift.
Is that likely? Our heart says yes, but our head says no.
- Messenger as a platform
Messenger, Facebook's standalone messaging app, recently rolled out a new feature to allow contacts to easily send money to each other. At F8, we expect Facebook will announce even more plans for its new app, with the goal of developing it into an even more established platform of its own. These plans could include adding more details about contacts and even adding the ability to view news through the app.
Zuckerberg's project to connect the five billion people without internet access is likely to get some air time at F8, after the CEO spoke about it recently at Mobile World Congress. Zuckerberg is trying to woo mobile networks around the world to work with him to give people access to the internet for free for services like news, weather and of course Facebook.
F8 - How to watch Facebook developer conference online?
Facebook's F8 event takes place on Wednesday, 25 March and Thursday, 26 March in the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. There will be keynotes on both days, both starting at 10am local time.
Here are local times around the world for the event:
- San Francisco - 10am
- New York - 1pm
- London - 5pm
- Amsterdam - 6pm
- Johannesburg - 7pm
- Bangkok - midnight
- Hong Kong - 1am (Tuesday)
- Seoul - 2am (Tuesday)
- Sydney - 4am (Tuesday)
The keynote on Wednesday, 25 March is simply titled Opening Keynote but on Thursday the keynote is split in two, with the opening 30 minutes devoted to Innovation at Facebook while the second half hour will focus on Why Virtual Reality Will Matter to You and will be given by Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash.
To watch all the keynotes online, Facebook will be publishing a live stream here: f8.facebooklive.com
IBTimes UK will be covering all the announcements as they happen so make sure to check back here from 5pm (GMT) on Wednesday 25 March.