Facebook Launches Audience Network

David Murphy

fbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbFacebook has officially launched its Audience Network at its f8 developer conference in San Francisco. The announcement, made by project management director Deborah Liu, was one of several mobile-focused launches at the event.

Kicking off her presentation, she told delegates how they were in the same position Facebook itself was not long ago, saying that Facebook had to reinvent how its social network looked on mobile, complete with ads, when it realised it could not just stick with the “right-hand side ads” used on desktop. After launching newsfeed advertising, she told delegates, the company realised that “ads that are integrated are not disruptive”.

Liu stressed that Facebook would do all the work on the developers’ behalf to enable them to benefit from the targeting and analytics opportunities that come from the data the social network holds on its users, and to target those users outside of Facebook.

She cited examples of companies already using the network – including how Coca-Cola, looking for people who looked like their existing customers “found their audience” on second-hand clothing app Vinted; and how Audible, looking for fans of Game of Thrones, found them in the Cut the Rope app. “We have the best targeting system in the world and we’re opening up to you,” she told the developer audience.

One thing that's not clear is how many and which apps are included in the Audience Network. We are seeking clarification on this point from Facebook. Update: Facebook's press office tells us there is no information on the number of apps involved in the network.

Among the other announcements tonight were an Anonymous Login that enables users to log in to apps via Facebook without giving away personal data; and a new personalised Facebook Login that lets users choose what data they share with an app. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the moves were examples of Facebook “putting people first” and “giving people power and control.”

The company also announced AppLinks, which is a way of deeplinking seamlessly between apps; Parse Data Store, which it says makes it easier to build apps that work better offline; and a move into push notifications with the launch of Parse Push.

It also unveiled a Mobile Like button which enables users to share a specific page from within an app with their friends on Facebook; Message Dialogue, which enables the same thing via private messages; and Send To Mobile, which sends a link to download the corresponding app to a user’s phone when they visit a desktop website and log in via Facebook.

Finally, Facebook announced FbStart, offering up to $30,000 worth of free tools and services to help app developers “get their app up and running”. There are two tracks, the BootStrap track for startups, with funding up to $5,000, and the Accelerate track for those looking to scale their app. There are a number of partners for FbStart, including MailChimp, SalesForce, SurveyMonkey

Closing the keynotes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told developers this was “the time we are going to help you monetise in a serious way on mobile … Today is all about listening to you, hearing what you want from the platform and deepening that relationship.”