Electricity. (source: Pixabay)

In this episode of the Bots Podcast, Chris Messina and I reflect on what Facebook has become, the role that it now plays in our lives, and what it all means for developers. We recorded this discussion shortly after attending Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference in San Jose.

When it opened to users in 2004, Facebook’s essential value was exclusion—it was available at first only to Harvard students, then to students at a handful of top-tier universities. Since then, it has grown to host two billion monthly active users, and along the way has come to feel like a utility—a simple reality of digital existence.

Messina, an independent bot enthusiast and social media observer (and creator of the hashtag) calls Facebook “a state of mind, a belief system. It is a way of participating in the common discourse that reinforces your own perceptions.”

Discussion points:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) dominated the discussion (especially the keynotes) at F8.  In addition to reviewing the new product/project announcements, we talk about what is being done to cultivate the skills that the next generation of AR/VR content creators will need.
  • In an age of fake news, we discuss Facebook’s responsibilities. Despite some calls for Facebook to become a gatekeeper, the company seems to recognize that doing so could alienate a large portion of its user base—and interfere with the safe-harbor protection that it enjoys as an unedited platform.
  • We compare Facebook and Snapchat, and note that Snapchat will face mounting pressure to open its platform to developers.
  • The new features announced for Facebook Messenger, including the Discover tab and parametric QR codes, provide some interesting avenues for bot discovery, one of the most formidable challenges that bot developers face.
  • How much natural language understanding do bots really need? There are plenty of existing processes that can be valuably brought to messaging platforms without really engaging with NLU at all. As Messina says, “the best NLU is still done by humans.”