At the end of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's keynote address at his company's annual F8 developers conference today, he took a page out of Oprah Winfrey's book, sending attendees home with a shiny object they all wanted. And while the 31-year-old wasn't giving away cars, Zuckerberg told the audience of a few hundred in San Francisco they were getting gratis Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headsets and Samsung smartphones to power them.
That's roughly $800 in value for folks who bought F8 tickets for $595 apiece, and, yes, audience members applauded loudly and sounded downright giddy about their new, high-tech toys. But more importantly, Zuckerberg's speech underscored that he is quickly becoming an unusually powerful media character, getting countless thousands of people to watch at least part of his 9-year-old event on Facebook.
What Winfrey was to the 1990s and 2000s—changing the TV landscape with incredible consumer devotion—Zuckerberg seems to be to the future of all things digital. She used her daytime TV fame to create a publishing empire; he's looking to capitalize on an incredibly popular social network and parlay it into areas like VR and livestreaming.
"We are going to walk through our road map for the next 10 years," Zuckerberg said today.
Here are eight takeaways from his F8 keynote:
1. Chatbots take on phones
Facebook was expected to debut tools for developers inside its Messenger app, and it didn't disappoint. Zuckerberg showed examples from CNN and 1-800-Flowers, two companies already testing the feature.
"To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again," he quipped, joking about the brand's phone-based name. (Though, the retail company has had e-commerce capabilities for more than 20 years.)
Zuckerberg added, "I've never met anyone who likes calling a business."
If people are uncertain about the potential of chat-based commerce, consider this: Zuckerberg said 60 billion messages are sent via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp every day.
2. Sponsored chats
Facebook announced that brands will be able to send sponsored messages to users via Facebook Messenger. In order to send business promotions, marketers must first match the phone numbers of customers with Facebook users who opt to receive messages from advertisers.
"That is going to be an amazing way to combine new use acquisition with retention," said Facebook Messenger products director David Marcus, who also spoke.
3. Satellites and airplanes
Zuckerberg said his technologists will beam a satellite into space in the "next few months" and that they are also building airplanes. Both initiatives are designed to transmit internet connections to people in remote areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa.
"If you told me 10 years ago I'd be building a plane, I would've said you're crazy," Zuckerberg said.
Zuck went from Facemash to Internet planes. Think about that next time you call an idea 'silly' #F82016
— Startup J Khaled (@StartupJKhaled) April 12, 2016
More generally, these announcements build on Zuckerberg's Internet.org efforts meant to bring internet service to the entire planet.
4. Virtual reality's coming to life
The Facebook chief revealed that his company is developing touch controllers to complement virtual reality headsets like the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.
"It's going to add a whole new layer of immersion," Zuckerberg said. "We are working on a whole new level of social experience [with virtual reality]."
5. A 360-degree camera
Creatives will want to know that he introduced a high-end, open-source video camera called Facebook Surround. It looks like a flying saucer and employs a 17-camera setup and web-based software to get pictures in 360 degrees and automatically render the images. The cameras include the wide-angle and fish-eye varieties.
6. Any camera, any time
Zuckerberg demonstrated with a drone that any smart camera can be utilized for streaming on Facebook Live. The move will also let programmers plug Facebook Live video directly into their apps, he said.
7. Will apps replace TV?
Facebook is ramping up its efforts to create light-weight apps that eat up 25 percent less phone data. Consumers will like the savings, and Zuckerberg even predicted $1 apps "will replace TV" someday.
8. Instant Articles everywhere
As expected, Facebook's Instant Articles program was made available to all publishers, letting them post whole articles and other content directly to the news feed.