Just because you weren’t invited, doesn’t mean Facebook can’t help you crash the party. Facebook Events on the web got a slick visual overhaul today that includes a new “Events For You” tab that recommends gatherings it thinks you’ll enjoy, even if no one invited you, friends aren’t going, and you’ve never been to the venue. Rather than just being a calendar of your invites and a few suggestions based on what friends are doing, Facebook is now applying everything it knows about you to get you out of the house and somewhere fun…where you can take photos and post them to Facebook.
After we spotted the unannounced redesign today, Facebook confirmed to me it’s testing it with some users globally before a mid-paced rollout to everyone in the coming weeks. A similar design for Events will be coming to Android and iOS later this year too. You can see how it looks on web above.
The main Events feed now has a much cleaner, more condensed, iOS7-ish feel to it. A tabbed interface lets you quickly jump back and forth between All your events, Invites, events you’ve “Saved” but not RSVP’d to, and ones you’re “Hosting”. A shortcut on the right lets you hop immediately into past events or the creation flow. The design makes it much easier to manage invites because they get a dedicated space, instead of being meshed in with ones you’ve already accepted or declined.
But what’s really important here is Facebook’s concentration on Event discovery. The new “Events For Your” section on the right sidebar that can be opened into a list has more suggestions based on a lot more data. A Facebook spokesperson tells me “The recommendations you see are based on the information you have shared with Facebook (i.e., Pages you like, groups and communities you’re a part of, events that friends are attending), and other relevant contextual information such as day of the week and location.”
Essentially, Facebook can look at an Event, assess what it’s about and who is already going, and use that demographic and interest data to match it to more potential attendees. This is much more powerful than when Facebook dipped its toes into recommendations back in 2011. Facebook Events will now compete with a host of Event discovery apps ranging from catch-all services like YPlan, Applauze, Fever, and Eventful to focused ones like WillCall, Seatwave, and StubHub’s Showdrift for music and Sosh for cultural events. Bafflingly, Eventbrite still does a mediocre job of event recommendations despite having such a strong database of local happenings.
Facebook’s push into event discovery could be big for a few reasons. First, I think this looks rich enough to become its own standalone app. Some people aren’t avid News Feed readers and do their messaging elsewhere, but they have to use Facebook because of Events. Otherwise, their meatspace social life could suffer.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg told me in an on-stage interview last year that certain Facebook features buried in its interface like Groups would benefit from having their own standalone apps, and I think this applies to Events as well. He said “…if you have something like Groups, it’s always going to be kind of second-class in the main Facebook app, or even messaging for that matter. In order to make these things really be able to reach their full potential, I do think over time we’re going to have to create more specific experiences.” An Events app that helped you find fun things to do around you as well as manage your invites could be a killer tool you can’t get elsewhere.
There’s also a ton of monetization potential in event discovery. Concert halls, conferences, clubs, and bars might very well be willing to pay to get their events injected into Facebook’s suggestions.
While it might seem counter-intuitive, getting people off the computer and out on the town is productive for Facebook. Events are where you meet friends that strengthen Facebook’s social graph, and take photos to share back, and interact with Businesses you could Like. If Facebook can be the portal to fun IRL experiences, it will win a place in your heart.
And finally, Events help Facebook achieve its mission to connect people, and fights the perception that it actually isolates us. The Events feature has quietly become one of the social network’s most critical over the years. Seems Facebook is finally ready to celebrate it.