During Facebook's (FB) Tuesday F8 conference keynote, Mark Zuckerberg and other execs took the wraps off new features, services and app updates for core Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. As far as investors are concerned, a few things are worth taking stock of:
- Facebook continues laying the groundwork for turning Messenger and WhatsApp, which for now produce little revenue, into major top-line contributors in future years. Several new business services were launched for Messenger, including ones that make it easier to support appointment bookings and run lead-generation ad campaigns. And nine months after giving businesses the option to pay to message WhatsApp users that they haven't been in contact with recently, Facebook announced a feature that lets WhatsApp business accounts show product catalogs to consumers (this could also be useful for the ads that Facebook plans to run against WhatsApp's stories service, known as Status).
- Facebook remains serious about exploiting Instagram's untapped e-commerce potential. A little over a month after giving users the ability to purchase items promoted via Instagram posts directly within the Instagram app, it's announcing brands and celebrities will be able to tag items within posts that can be purchased within the app. Instagram is also six months removed from launching a Shopping channel within its Explore tab.
- In the wake of Zuckerberg's prediction that Messenger and WhatsApp will act as the primary ways people communicate through Facebook's app family within a few years, Facebook appears intent on growing the amount of time consumers spend using Messenger. A Messenger PC app will launch this year, as will a sleeker, faster-loading version of the mobile app that's codenamed LightSpeed. New Messenger services for sharing content and watching video with friends and family are also rolling out. The moves come ahead of Facebook's plans to let users of its various messaging services interact with each other, and to support end-to-end encryption across them.
- With usage of the core Facebook app (still easily Facebook's biggest revenue-generator) under pressure in the U.S. and some other lucrative markets, Facebook is doubling down on its efforts to emphasize social interactions within the app. Core Facebook's mobile app is getting an overhaul that places greater emphasis on its Groups and Events services, and it's also getting a Meet New Friends feature that aims to connect users with people they have common interests or real-world connections with.
Facebook still faces near-term challenges related to core app usage and the need to better monetize its stories services and messaging apps, and is also dealing with a fair amount of executive turnover. Nonetheless, its F8 announcements do suggest Zuckerberg & Co. have a decent understanding of what kinds of steps the company needs to take to boost user engagement and deliver healthy top-line growth over the long run.