Live: Storming The Beaches Of Facebook's Developer Roadmap Event

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-2We’re here today at the Facebook Developer Garage being held at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. The point of this rather large meetup for developers and the press is to talk about the future of Facebook’s Platform. As such, they’re calling this event the “Roadmap Edition.” As we noted earlier, big changes are expected to be announced today that will alter the way developers interact with Facebook’s Platform; this is D-Day.

Below find our live notes (paraphrased):

Mark Zuckerberg: Thanks for coming to our first ever edition of the roadmap developer garage. The Platform and Connect are quick becoming the most important part of our strategy today. We hope what we’re doing will help foster innovation. The first key is a really good team. We’ve added some really good people recently to our engineering and Connect teams.

We want to build out a real middle structure for our platform. It’s all about “eating our own dogfood.” This will take a while to complete, but it will improve speed and stability.

On the product side, Bret Taylor (from FriendFeed); he’s now the director of product management for Platform. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming out. Some of which we’ll talk about today.

This is the roadmap for the next few months. It’s progress for us to do a roadmap (laughs). Ethan (Beard) has been bugging me to do this for a while now. We knew we needed to do this for the developers. Ethan is one of the real stars at Facebook, he came from Google and runs the developer network now. We couldn’t think of a better person than Ethan to do this. The roadmap is the next step for all of this.

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Ethan Beard: Some of our biggest developers are here, and some of our smallest. All of you are totally kicking butt on platform today. We have over 1 million developers now, the growth is incredible. Over 350,000 applications, and 10s of thousands are sites. 3 of the 10 ten iphone games now use Facebook Connect.

Our goal today is to reduce the amount of anxiety, despite what you heard in the press – “the death of Platform is greatly exaggerated.” 70% of Facebook users are touching the things you guys build every month.

You guys are building businesses, so you need a roadmap. Facebook is very fast moving and dynamic, so it’s challenging to nail down what exactly is coming out in the future and tell you guys. But Platform is so important to us.

Today: Communication Channel, Discovery and Engagement, and New Things. This is a 3 to 6 month roadmap. These are mock-ups, not final designs. We’re not launching any new products today, we’re just talking about what we’re launching in the future. This is a discussion we want to have with you and the public for what we should be doing.

First up:

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Communication Channels

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When users come to Facebook, they struggle to understand where they should go to get messages. There are too many places to go. This is one thing we want to fix. And from the developer perspective, there is also confusion. In Notifications we know that bad messages drown out the good ones. So which ones do you want to get across.

First important one to use is the Stream. This is the best location for one to many broadcasts. Nothing will changes about the Stream other than small things.

Second one is User-to-User communication. This is the source of some confusion. We’re going to consolidate all the various ways you do one-to-one in the inbox. You should send messages directly to users with attachments as you can now.

But you should also be able to send out a mass message (this is still user-to-user). We’re experimenting with how to have these in the inbox without blowing out the other one-to-one messages. We need better selectors for multiple users. Maybe if you’re talking about Scrabble, it only shows your friends who play the Scrabble app.

Third, we are going to make available to developers user email addresses. This will allow developers to prompt users and they can share their email with you. No longer will this be about ‘who owns the user.

These will allow you to future-proof your business.

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Discovery and Engagement

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Users struggle to find applications – we know where it is but they don’t. We’re moving navigation from bottom to the left side, we think this will be a big improvement. In the left side there will be notifications to let you know if there’s a new message to see. This will drive user re-engagement.

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We will also have a one-click bookmark button to allow users to easily find the apps they want.

Another new thing: Dashboards. There will be an applications and a games dashboard. Our users love games, so this is for finding their existing games, and find new ones. We’ll use Dashboards for our own products as well.

User Interface updates. We’re working on changes to the top navigation – we’re going to downplay that it’s a Facebook page, and show that it’s your page (for apps).

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New Products And Programs

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We’ve spent a lot of time developing new products for developers. There’s an entirely new developer website. developers.facebook.com – there will be all new documentation, better collaboration and community features.

This will be all on the public-facing developer roadmap shortly. And we’ll keep updating it.

There will also be a new Platform Live Status area. It’s hard for developers to know if it’s on their side or our side – we get that. This should help.

Platform Policies – ours are exceptionally confusing now. We have over 14 pages on Platform policies – no one knows them all. Our goal is that everyone should understand them. Key ones: Be Trustworthy – Create a great user experience

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14 pages have been reduced to 3 pages now. It’s much more simple. This is all about ‘what can i do, what can’t i do?’ This will be much easier.

Enforcement is another key focus now. We’re ending the verifications as a stand-alone program. Platform will still be free to use and open to everyone, but we’ll be checking. If we see something we don’t like, we’ll work with those developers to get their apps right.

Analytics is something we’re improving a lot now too. There will be a new Insights tool, and it will be available through an API, for the dashboards you guys use.

An entirely new API – Open Graph API – This allows any page on the web to have the same features as a fan page inside Facebook. These web pages can post info into that users News Feed. This is a continuation to the move to add objects and people into the graph, but now the graph can be anywhere on the web. And we’re opening this up – you guys can help build out the core social graph.

Go here now to learn more

F8 will be happen in the first half of 2010. This will be a return to our roots. Building great tech and providing you with the building blocks.

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Q&A

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Q: Can we vote on the features?

EB: We’re not launching any voting tools on the site. But you can voice your opinion. We expect to see that happen, but no voting.

Q: Can you speed up mobile SDK?

EB: Absolutely.

Q: I don’t get Open Graph API, more details?

EB: We think the graph is more than just people – also objects, products, and things. This shouldn’t all have to be in Facebook proper. So we want the functionality on any URL. This will be good for brands like Coke.

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Q: The distinction between applications and games, is there a difference between the two?

EB: No difference in privacy settings. Our goal is just to make it easier to find games. But it’s all the same.

Q: Is the Dashboard for apps the same?

EB: Yes.

Q: Where does Facebook Currency fit into this?

EB: Nothing to announce today. But Facebook Credits today are used to purchase items in the gift store – and we’ve been running some tests to use those credits with developers and good they’re selling. That’s as far as we’ve gotten.

Q: Will developers be able to store email addresses?

EB: Yes. It will be valid and up-to-date for the users. We’re not sure about the names, but I think that will be ‘yes.’

Q: Other changes for permissions?

EB: This is something we hear a lot – frustration with the variety of authorization dialogues. We’re spending some time investigating how to simplify that. There will be more granular controls for users to see what they’re sharing with developers.

Q: Will Open Graph site owners be able to interact easily?

EB: Through the API, yes.

Q: Will there also be age-verification?

EB: Nothing to announce now, but we have some APIs for age verification already.

Q: Are Notifications going away.

EB: For applications, yes.

Q: So what if users don’t feel comfortable giving the email address?

EB: That’s like saying I want to get a phone call from you, but don’t want to give you my phone number (laughs). It’s important for developers to be able to email users, but users have to see what is going on.

Q: Can users choose which email to give them?

EB: We haven’t decided that yet, but we’ll figure that out.

Q: Will there be proxy emails for these notifications?

EB: Email addresses will be actual real email addresses – like Gmails.

Q: Talk a bit more about the counters thing in the new sidebar.

EB: It shows up next to the bookmark, if a user has bookmarked an app. Developers can set the counter for any reason they choose. We expect it to be for good reasons, we’ll be watching it. It should be obvious to the user. The counters shouldn’t always be on.

Q: What about publishing to the wall now?

EB: That hasn’t been addressed yet, but I don’t think we have plans to take that away from the Stream perspective.

Q: With verified apps, are you killiing that program, and just raising the standards across the board?

EB: The program as you know it now will be ending. We’ll be using the same tools broadly across the platform.

Q: Will search results be effected?

EB: Not sure yet, I don’t think so though.

Q: Will you be verifying apps below a certain size?

EB: Our goal is to extend our policies very broadly. We’ll obviously focus on the bigger ones more, but we care about all of them.

Q: What are you thoughts on all these changes for developers?

EB: There are very few platforms that are this open about the changes, like we’re doing today. Our goal is not to break backwards compatibility. We want to maintain it whenever possible, but Facebook as a product changes very quickly – and somethings maintaining compatibility is impossible. So we provide warning – at least 30 days, for major changes, more. And we want to offer a clear path to help developers.

Q: In Open Graph API

EB: There are no specific changes to announce, but the on and off-Facebook should be the same or similar.

Q: What about location? With Twitter doing it?

EB: We have nothing specific to announce at this point.

Q: What about profiles? Anything new coming up?

EB: We are making some changes to the profile. We think it should be a great place for users to accurately represent their identity, but we have some changes. We can’t share them right now. Some will affect developers. Boxes tab will be going away. Profile pages will be getting narrowed – 710px to 550px.

Q: So you don’t want apps to grow quickly?

EB: Not at all. We just don’t want developers to do it by violating policy. We will continue to shut down apps that grossly violate our policies, but that’s not our goal.

That’s a wrap.

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