Facebook’s F8 plans include Camera Effects Platform, offline Instagram

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What will Facebook launch next week at its F8 conference? The schedule reveals plans to give Instagram offline features that are already in testing, opening its Camera Effects Platform to developers so they can create more powerful photo and video overlays for people to use and a Places Graph for developers to do more with Facebook’s location database beyond the existing APIs.

Most of the sessions for the two-day developer conference in San Jose deal with existing products and news. But three jumped out as describing additional functionality not yet announced.

International growth requires rebuilding apps for different locations with different network connectivity conditions. Facebook has had success with versions of Messenger Lite and the 200 million-user Facebook Lite, and has built offline functionality into its main app. Now Instagram appears to be getting some developing-world features in sessions called “Building Offline Experiences for Instagram.” Mashable previously reported the session’s inclusion. The session description reads:

Instagram’s mission is to help people connect through shared experiences. 80% of the community is outside of the US, and as our platform grows, Instagram must perform across an increasing variety of devices and networks to keep people connected. For people in low-bandwidth regions, we’ve begun testing offline experiences that keep the Instagram experience consistent and let people consume and engage with content, even if they don’t have service. In this talk we’ll introduce some of our initial explorations into offline features, and share learnings you can apply to your own apps.

Facebook can’t dream up every possible filter, frame or effect you might want to add to your photos and videos. Last August I wrote Facebook had a huge opportunity to allow developers to contribute effects as part of a “Camera Platform.” In December, Facebook revealed the first tests of a “Camera Effects Platform” in a few non-U.S. countries that lets anyone design and submit a custom overlaid graphic Profile Photo Frame. At F8 it appears Facebook is ready to expand this capability to more serious developers considering it has both an intro and a “Building for the Camera Effects Platform.” That indicates it will expand from a user-facing self-serve design tool for static frames to potentially allow developers to code animated or reactive augmented reality effects as well.

The “Introduction to the Camera Effects Platform” session description reads:

Get Creative With Camera Effects Platform: Camera-first experiences are a great way to keep people engaged. Come learn more about our Camera Effects Platform, a tool you can use to develop and submit frames that can be used by other people with photos and videos they capture and share on Facebook.

Facebook originally launched Places APIs in 2010 for reading and writing to its Places database. But as local businesses ramp up their use of mobile, new opportunities are emerging for surfacing hyper-local content or deals. And location-aware apps could provide users a socially connected view of the world around them. At F8, Facebook seems to be planning a newly revamped “Places Graph” beyond the Places API. That could equip developers with more ways to work with where users and their friends spend time in the physical world.

The “Explore the Power of the Places Graph” session’s description reads:

Power your app with the Places Graph. We’re providing free access to the same place data that powers Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Learn how to use data about 140M+ places around the world to create location aware app experiences.

Finally, while Facebook doesn’t say anything about group chat in its “Let’s Chat About Bots” session, last month we reported Facebook will upgrade Messenger’s bot platform to allow developers to extend bots into group chats. There they could provide news updates such as sports scores of a game in progress, or provide delivery status and ETA for food delivery apps from which the whole group is ordering.

We’ll be back next week with extensive coverage of F8, including live updates from the keynote speech at 10am Pacific on Tuesday, April 18th.