At Facebook’s F8 conference last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced a renewed focus on development capabilities that will aid entrepreneurs with growth and monetization on the social network. These changes promise to make users happier and marketers smarter, so business owners will be able to more easily reach larger audiences and build better engagement.
The logical way for Facebook to grow revenue (which it now has a mandate to do post-IPO) is to embrace, encourage and enable the developer ecosystem that utilizes its platform for identity, network, sharing and payments (nearly $3 billion were processed last year). It was evident that this F8 was about developers and business owners -- their needs and wants and helping them become more successful. Here's how:
More trust, more users. With anonymous logins, users can test apps before giving up their email. Customers will also have more control over app permissions and sharing through line-by-line opt-ins at signup. The bottom line: More control, more customization and reduced friction will encourage more users to discover, explore and sign up for apps.
Better ads, more places. With Facebook’s Audience Network, marketers now have the ability to tap into rich personal data for ads (banner, interstitial and native) on the social network and in third-party apps. Facebook users can be targeted based on actions they take in apps. This means you can better monetize your app with highly relevant and intelligently-targeted ads. It also means you can reach high-value users, or users that took specific actions in your app, to bring them back in.
"Stable Mobile Platform": It will be easier for developers to build more powerful and stable apps on Facebook’s new API (application programming interface), which Zuckerberg promised will have a minimum two-year lifespan. For entrepreneurs this means apps will work, unbroken, in multiple versions as user-bases update. For app developers, that's reduced levels of effort, efficiency and risk mitigation. All current apps have until April 30, 2015, to update to version 2.0 of the API.
Mobile! The entire conference proceeded under the context of mobile, where Facebook made 60 percent of its revenue last year. Deep linking (via open-sourced App Links) advances the idea of staying in app, between apps, all the time. The initiative strives to normalize this across platforms. We'll see what Apple rolls out at WWDC in a few weeks around this idea, but for now, Facebook is working on making it easy for developers to create a much better experience for users. Facebook will continue to double down on mobile, and on developers and entrepreneurs there too.
Reaching global audiences. Internet.org, the global partnership dedicated to bringing affordable internet access to the unconnected global population, had a visible presence at F8. Developers could test their apps live against networks designed to represent low connectivity and latency. As you think about gaining users, you should consider users and customers in the developing world and design your apps/services to work on their networks. Millions of new users will come online in the next five years, and Facebook wants to help you serve them.
Better tool kits for growth. FbStart is a package of tools and services from Facebook and a collective of other companies to help get your app off the ground and in front of users. The offering comes in two tiers for early-stage apps ($5,000) and those with more significant traction ($30,000). Building your app on the Facebook platform is important, but growth is the goal. This program and alliance of partners, similar to Microsoft's BizSpark and Google for Entrepreneurs, indicate the proxy value Facebook knows will exist if your app and company are successful.
It's clear that the past 10 years have focused on growing Facebook accounts -- populating the walled garden. F8 2014 was a determined circle-back to its hacker/developer roots with clear acknowledgment that the entrepreneur/developer community and their apps and businesses will be the key to growth in the next 10 years. Now it's time for you to take advantage.