Facebook prepares for new product announcement
Social network continues to change as it tries to stay on top
Facebook is preparing to divulge details on a new product later today. Photograph: Martin Keene/PA Wire
Facebook is preparing to unveil its latest product at an event later today, promising “a big idea” will be revealed.
The rumours are already flying, with speculation that the social network is about to announce the addition of video to its Instagram service. Or could it be a news reader, filling a gap left after Google decided to shut its Reader service down?
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Facebook is playing its cards close to its chest. The last time it held such an event, it was to announce the Facebook ‘phone’, the HTC First running the social network’s Home software, which overhauls compatible Android phones’ home screens and makes them more Facebook friendly.
The phone itself has had a mixed reception, but the potential raised by Facebook Home has been noted.
How things have changed in almost a decade. When Facebook first started out, it was a social network aimed at Harvard students. Created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, it opened its doors to everyone over the age of 13 two years later, and has since risen to the top of the social networking pile.
Over the years, it has evolved significantly, and just over a year ago debuted on the stock market with a value of more than $100 billion.
Where once the pinnacle of Facebook’s interaction was poking, or throwing a virtual sheep at a friend, now it has voice and video chat. It reminds you of birthdays, and offers you the chance to send a virtual gift before accepting the invite to the party through the site. Life events can be highlighted on the site: weddings, births, breakups.
Earlier this month, Facebook added the ability to follow conversations through the use of hashtags, similar to services like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
In short, it has become the hub of social lives the world over, sidestepping - for now, at least - the fate that befell predecessors such as MySpace, Bebo and Friendster. More than 751 million users access Facebook’s mobile products every month, with the site clocking up more than 655 million users every day.
This is possibly in part due to the constant changes, which are usually initially decried by the community at large.
The new features have come at a fast pace. September 2006 saw the introduction of the now-familiar newsfeed, where all the changes and updates to friends’ profiles were catalogued on a single page. Pages, groups and events were all added over the years.
Chat messages came in 2010, followed by voice and video calling through Facebook in 2011, following Gmail’s lead.
Timeline, which was introduced from 2011, caused a storm of controversy among users, who feared that their privacy was being compromised. Graph Search, which was introduced in January, was another cause for concern among privacy advocates, allowing users to search profiles for any particular information that had been shared with them.
There was also the facial recognition technology that hit a dud note with both users and privacy watchdogs in Europe, leading to Facebook rolling back the technology. The addition to Facebook had suggested the identity of people in photographs uploaded to the site. However,during the course of a privacy audit, Facebook turned off the feature for European users and agreed to delete data generated by the tags.
Last year, Facebook hit the headlines again when it bought Instagram. Although the company has been quietly acquiring new firms - Spool, Snaptu and Threadsy, to name but a few - Instagram was by far the largest investment.
If the announcement is video related, it will put the service in direct competition with Twitter’s Vine video service, further heating up the competition in social networking.
All eyes are on Silicon Valley once more.