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May 02, 2018

How about some Facebook news for a change?

1 big thing: Zuckerberg's delicate balancing act

Illustration of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg peeking out from behind a security shield

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Heading into Facebook's F8 CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a tough task: Enticing developers with enough new stuff while convincing the media and others that he is sufficiently focused on security and privacy.

Zuckerberg leaned on a particular refrain: "to keep people safe and to keep building."

Quick take: It was important for Facebook to hit both notes in equal measure, but it was that latter part that was most welcome to developers.

What we're hearing:

"Maybe privacy is quite important," said Johnson Wang, who works for Taiwanese augmented reality firm Spe3D. But he said, "People like to share. The more important thing is to move forward."

Those working in augmented reality and virtual reality received the most new tools on Tuesday. For general developers, the biggest news was the reopening of Facebook's App Review process, which has been on hold as Facebook struggled to regain control over its platform.

Meanwhile: Zuckerberg looked to thread a different needle in a meeting with media leaders (including Kim Hart) organized by The Information's Jessica Lessin on Tuesday afternoon, trying to show support for journalism without promising to share revenue with news publishers.

  • Despite Zuckerberg's openness to finding ways to sustain news operations, there were a few disconnects between the journalists and Facebook.
  • The bottom line: As Kim writes, despite their strained, symbiotic relationship, the two industries' business models are far from aligned, and the awkward dance between them is far from over.

2. Facebook's big moves in AR and VR

A woman wearing an Oculus Go VR headset

Facebook's Oculus Go standalone VR headset is now shipping. Photo: Facebook

There are many reasons why Facebook might want to be exploring alternate realities right about now, but its work in AR and VR is nonetheless worth paying attention to.

The biggest announcement was that Oculus Go is now shipping, and the $199 standalone VR headset debuted to strong reviews. In addition, Facebook also announced:

  • A collaboration with Red Digital Cinema on a high-end VR camera capable of capturing fully immersive video with what's known as six degrees of freedom.
  • The ability to take 3D content that is shared on Facebook and then use that shared content in AR. Users will also be able to capture 3D images using standard smartphones.
  • AR camera effects for both Instagram and Messenger.
  • A futuristic demo in which Facebook can recreate a room or space from still images and flat video.

Why it matters: While Facebook is under intense scrutiny over its current core businesses, it has a little more leeway in emerging areas, including AR and VR. That's an opportunity the company desperately wants to make use of.

Separately: Facebook announced several other product moves at F8, most notably its entry into the arena of matchmaking. While its product won't be ready for a couple of months, just its plans to get into the dating business sent shares of Match Group tumbling.

  • On the privacy front, Zuckerberg announced just before the event began that Facebook would allow users, on an opt-out basis, to choose not to share their browsing history with Facebook.
  • You can check out all the big F8 announcements here.

3. Exclusive: Facebook commits to bias reviews

An illustration of the Facebook letter "F" logo intermingled with lots of other "F"s

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

But wait, there's yet more Facebook news. Sara Fischer has the exclusive on a new effort by the social network to address concerns over bias.

What's happening: Facebook is bringing in two outside advisers — one to conduct a legal audit of its impact on underrepresented communities and communities of color, and another to advise the company on potential bias against conservative voices.

Why it matters: The efforts are happening in response to allegations that the tech giant censors conservative voices and discriminates against minority groups. Facebook hopes the independent audit and formal advising partnership will show it takes these issues very seriously.

Go deeper: Sara has more here.

4. Caucus: Big Tech is dawdling on diversity

Reps. Meeks, Waters, Butterfield, and Lee at Lyft HQ.

Reps. Meeks, Waters, Butterfield, and Lee at Lyft HQ. Photo: Scott Rosenberg/Axios

Tech companies are moving too slowly to remedy underrepresentation of African Americans in their ranks, senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday on a swing through Silicon Valley, Scott Rosenberg reports.

What we're hearing: The caucus' two previous visits to Silicon Valley had produced promises but little progress in increasing African American employment in tech — currently at around 5% — or in boosting their numbers in leadership and board positions, according to the members.

  • Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) were speaking at Lyft's China Basin headquarters.
  • "We're going to demand that these companies become more diverse," Butterfield said.

Why it matters: Regulation of the tech industry looks like more of a real possibility in the wake of Facebook's privacy controversy. If Democrats win control of the House in November, many of these representatives will be in a position to spotlight this issue — and even promote legislation.

Go deeper: Scott has more here.

5. Mobile app spending to top $150 billion by 2022

Data: App Annie; Graphic: Chris Canipe/Axios
Data: App Annie; Graphic: Chris Canipe/Axios

Spending on mobile apps came in slightly lower than expected last year, but App Annie has hiked its 5-year forecast, saying it now expects sales in 2021 will be about $146.5 billion, 5% higher than its previous forecast. By 2022, it should top $156 billion.

"A key difference is we are more conservative on the device install base rate of growth — expected to add 2 billion more mobile devices by 2022 — and that spend from mature markets on a per device basis is stronger than previously expected," App Annie SVP Danielle Levitas told Axios.

6. Take Note

On Tap

  • Facebook F8 continues in San Jose.
  • Meanwhile, Collision continues in New Orleans, the Milken Institute Global Conference proceeds in Los Angeles, and DLD New York takes place.
  • Earnings reports today include Spotify, Square and Tesla.

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