Good Morning
Good Morning

Facebook to roll out ad tools at conference as developers await changes

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is using F8 to

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is using F8 to strengthen ties to developers whose tools are crucial to helping Facebook woo users who socialize over mobile phones. Credit: EPA / Andreu Dalmau

Mark Zuckerberg is polishing his pitch to software developers.

At Facebook Inc.'s F8 conference starting Wednesday, the chief executive plans to unveil tools that let application makers reach the social network's audience while helping the company boost revenue. Facebook may also unveil a mobile-advertising distributor to challenge Twitter Inc.'s MoPub, people with knowledge of the matter said this month.

Zuckerberg is using F8 to strengthen ties to developers whose tools are crucial to helping Facebook woo users who socialize over mobile phones. The company's stock has been trading at record highs since last week, buoyed by optimism it can use a widening user base to keep attracting advertisers and fend off challenges from Twitter and Google Inc. Facebook also is seeking to make its site a forum for news outlets including Huffington Post, according to people familiar with the plans.

F8 runs for two days at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

More than 2,000 app makers are set to attend, eager to hear what Facebook has in store for the developers who depend on the platform to build mobile apps, add users and make money.

Relationships with mobile developers give Facebook additional real estate for the more than 1 million advertisers it serves and intelligence on which startups are growing fast. Because of its reach -- the social network counts 1.4 billion users and more than a million advertisers -- many app makers choose to build their businesses on its platform in exchange for a cut of their revenue from Facebook's users.


Passion projects

At this year's F8 -- the name comes from spending eight hours outside your normal workday to work on passion projects and learn about new technology -- the agenda includes such topics as security, Facebook's data infrastructure and ways to get the most out of the network's programming interface.

One session, "News Publishing on Facebook," promises to show the social network's offerings "to help you grow and engage your audience." The company wouldn't say whether this referred to the reports of talks with publishers about hosting news and content directly on its site.

The Menlo Park, California-based company has been expanding in mobile advertising as it competes in that business with big technology companies such as Google and Apple Inc.

Facebook generated 69 percent of its ad revenue from mobile ads in the fourth quarter. The company has also recently added a payment service to its Messenger chat app, and is building some products that remove the need for third-party apps -- such as a photo- layout app for Instagram that undercuts programs like Pic Stitch.


Data sharing

Hundreds of thousands of startup app makers have used the social network's tools and vast collection of data on its users to expand, the company said. Still, those young companies can be at the mercy of the social media giant when it makes changes to terms, policies or data-sharing agreements.

At F8 last year, Zuckerberg told outside developers that Facebook would give its users more control over the information they share with external programs accessed through its site. That forced Fever Labs Inc., maker of a mobile app that provides personalized local event suggestions, to spend two weeks altering its code. Even more important, the change reduced Fever's access to member data, said Yohanes Frezgi, Fever's vice president for product. The app uses Facebook member profiles to determine the events they might enjoy and which of their friends may attend.

"One thing we're looking for is some consistency," he said of this year's conference. "In terms of permissions, it was an all-you-can-eat sort of thing, and now it's more a la carte, where people can pick and choose which permissions to give and which permissions they can't." Mobile Web Snap Interactive Inc., which owns The Grade dating app, is looking for Facebook to make its mobile ad network more robust, said CEO Cliff Lerner.

"It's been performing very well for us, and it's only available on the native app right now," he said. "We'd like if it could move to mobile Web as well." Some developers say the benefits of building for Facebook's platform outweigh the potential drawbacks. Last year's move by Facebook meant that Threadflip Inc., which runs an online marketplace for secondhand clothes, will need Facebook's approval to access users' extended networks to support a feature that lets a person recommend purchases to friends.

"It's additional work for us, but I agree with the changes they're making," said co-founder Jeff Shiau, also Threadflip's chief technology officer. "It's definitely challenging to keep up with the platform. That's part of the main cost of having Facebook and having all that rich information readily available."

More news