30/11/2017 07:18 SAST | Updated 30/11/2017 07:18 SAST

The Future of Facebook Is The Rest of Your Life

Just as it already does in social networking and instant messaging, Facebook aims to dominate the Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning fields too.


Awaiting the Disruption of Social Media

People in the tech industry are always on the lookout for the "next big thing". Actually, that goes for most marketers, business owners, and consumers.

In the social media sphere, we've seen a remarkable number of improvements and developments in the past decade. Social media channels have become more mobile-friendly, and content has become more visual, to name just two.

But we could argue that we haven't seen any genuine disruption on social media in the past few years.

We've seen the eruption of the next big thing in fintech –– blockchain and Bitcoin –– and in transportation in the form of ride-hailing apps and automatic, driverless vehicles.

If social media, and specifically Facebook, is of such paramount importance to marketers and consumers, and we're living in an era where digital disruption is so probable, then surely we can expect a disruption in social media soon?


The Age of Disruption

Disruption has become everyone's new favourite word, and certainly a buzzword in most industries across the board – from the media to mining. Let's start by defining it. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new, more efficient and worthwhile. It is both destructive and creative.

Everyone wants to get on Forbes' Most Innovative Companies list every year. So what's the difference, then, between disruption and innovation? Shilen Patel, founder of business accelerator Independents United, says that if a company is facing large-scale and unpredictable change, but they have a degree of control over that change, then they need to innovate. If the company doesn't have control, then it needs to revolutionise itself before someone else does.

As Mark Zuckerberg said, "If we don't create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will."


The Social Network

Facebook is undeniably the biggest influencer in the social media world. With more than one billion active users and a long, consistent history, as well as the acquisitions of other global social giants Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook has earned its reputation as the dominant player in the social game.

Some recent updates on Facebook include 360-degree photos, the ability to react to photos with five different emoji instead of just "liking" them, and a number of developments in the layout and efficiency of Facebook Business Pages. In fact, keeping up with every new update is close to impossible, but updates occur automatically and consumers gradually get accustomed to them.

But these new features simply enhance what already exists; they don't disrupt it.

Does this mean we're overdue for a major disruption? Are we on the verge of the next social media innovation? If so, what will it be, and when can we expect it?

The Future of Facebook is The Rest of Your Life

  • Artificial Intelligence

Just as it already does in social networking and instant messaging, Facebook aims to dominate the Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning fields too.

Facebook has been dabbling in AI for a few years. Since the platform released its facial-recognition feature in 2010, it has also been used to curate the newsfeeds of all users.

DeepText, a deep learning-based engine that was released last year, is designed to understand text. With "near-human accuracy", it can understand several thousand posts per second, across more than 20 different languages. Deep learning becomes necessary when it comes to text, because computers have to learn slang, sarcasm and disambiguation for every language, too.

Facebook is also currently working on developing the standard facial recognition feature, DeepFace. This new tech will look for other identifying features –– regularly worn clothing, a distinctive posture or haircut, and voices in videos –– as clues to identify people. At its launch, Facebook's DeepFace was 97 percent accurate, compared to the 85 percent accurate system used by the FBI.

Since the company tripled its investments in AI and machine-learning research early this year, we can only expect bigger and better things still to come.


  • Virtual Reality

When Facebook bought Oculus in 2014, the obvious question –– besides "Seriously? Two billion dollars?" –– was what Facebook expected to do with a virtual reality company. Everyone joked about advertisements popping up in the middle of video games being played, and giant newsfeeds projected on skyscrapers. But Facebook's new VR app, Spaces, does a whole lot more.

Spaces, currently in Beta, is a virtual hangout where you can chill out with up to four friends, each represented by self-created digital avatars. The goal is to create the ultimate communal experience in an imaginary space, while giving people the sense that they're actually with friends and family.

For instance, instead of just looking at photos of a family wedding you missed, you'll be able to put your headset on and experience the wedding from the front pew. This may have been possible without Facebook, but we don't doubt that the social giant will help to make it more easily accessible to more people, and that it will soon be ingrained in the mainstream.

Although many of these developments may seem like far-out ideas today, Facebook has only just scratched the surface with AI, deep learning and virtual reality. We believe that the company will continue exploring what makes digital experiences more valuable and personal. Facebook is heavily invested in these technologies, as it aims to continue to transform the way people around the world communicate and stay connected.

At Meltwater Africa, we are equally committed to investing in revolutionary technology. Our latest media intelligence platform, Executive Alerts draws on artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide a product tailored for CEOs and directors –– alerting them to only the most important anomalies across a range of external data points. Contact Meltwater Africa to find out more about the world of Outside Insight.