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Facebook plans ‘major improvements’ as platforms grow to 2.7 billion users

After a year of trying to clean up messes, Facebook is looking to once again direct focus to new tools across the company’s suite of apps. During the fourth quarter and 2018 end-of-year results conference call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined the company’s plans for 2019 as the company hits an estimated 2.7 billion users across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

While Facebook’s cleanup goal prompted by privacy scandals and election meddling isn’t going anywhere, the changes implemented last year make enough progress for the company to make new features a focus for the new year. Zuckerberg says that the work will never be finished, but that the company has now built “some of the most advanced systems in the world for dealing with these issues.”

Second to continuing to address social issues, Zuckerberg shared a list of areas where users can expect new tools and improvements over the next year. “Our second priority for 2019 is that as we make progress on these social issues, we also need to deliver new experiences that meaningfully improve people’s lives,” he said. “I’m not talking about the many day-to-day iterative improvements we make so that ranking gets a bit better or things get somewhat faster, but major improvements to people’s lives that whole communities recognize and say, ‘Wow, we’re all doing something new on Facebook or WhatsApp that we weren’t doing before.’”

Zuckerberg likens the upcoming changes to Stories and the impact the format has had on the social networks, now with more than 500 million daily users on Instagram. Messaging is one focus area for changes, with Zuckerberg alluding to payments in WhatsApp in additional countries and private sharing in groups and stories. New features for groups is also on that list. 

After reducing the reach of viral videos in an effort to make time on the platform “time well spent” and in keeping with the social intent of the network, Facebook aims to expand Watch. The video centered platform now has 400 million monthly users, with a daily average of 20 minutes spent on Watch. Zuckerberg says he wants to make Watch more mainstream, allowing video to grow outside the news feed.

On Instagram, Zuckerberg says commerce and shopping will be a focus for new features this year. The CEO says the company will focus “on building technology that bring people together in new ways,” like the upcoming Oculus Quest and recent Facebook Portal, which has exceeded the company’s original expectations.

Zuckerberg also says that maintaining a strong business and promoting Facebook’s strengths are among the company’s priorities for 2019. During the call, Zuckerberg also said that the potential merger between all Facebook’s messaging systems, including Messenger, Instagram direct messages, and WhatsApp, is only in early stages, and if the merger happened, it wouldn’t be until at least 2020.

Facebook now has 1.52 billion users, an increase of 9 percent compared to numbers at the end of 2017 but growth that is not as rapid as previous years. The company estimates 2.7 billion people use at least one Facebook app, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Despite increasing expenses due in part to increased staff, the company’s net income increased by 39 percent compared to 2017.

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