Tech Industry

Facebook's annual software fest F8 kicks off April 18

The social network usually saves its biggest announcements for the event, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds court in front of an army of web developers. So expect lots of in-the-weeds stuff, too.

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Facebook is holding its annual conference April 18.

James Martin/CNET

Facebook's most important event of the year, F8, officially has a kickoff date: April 18.

In past years, the largest social network in the world has used the confab as a megaphone to announce its biggest products, including the profile Timeline and the company's advertising network. At F8 2016, CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the event to articulate his 10-year vision for the future of Facebook, which includes forays into virtual reality, artificial intelligence and Wi-Fi-beaming drones.

Zuck has also used the stage to get deeply personal. In 2014, he ruminated about turning 30. This year, he took a thinly-veiled shot at presidential candidate Donald Trump (before he was the Republican nominee) and rejected the notion of "building walls" and "distancing people."

For the upcoming year, the two-day conference will for the first time be held outside of San Francisco, the company announced Wednesday. F8 2017 is headed 50 miles south to the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. During Facebook's earlier days, the event was inconsistent -- only planned when Facebook had something big to announce. But in 2014, the company settled on making it an annual conference.

Facebook declined to comment on who will be speaking. (It's a good bet, though, that Zuckerberg will take the stage again.)

But while Facebook has announced major new features for consumers during F8 in the past, the conference is mostly geared toward software developers, who Facebook needs to woo to extend its reach and advertising prowess.

In another announcement Wednesday, Facebook also touted changes to its Analytics for Apps software, which helps app makers maintain and operate their apps. The service launched at F8 in 2015 and 800,000 apps are now using it. Changes include an update that lets businesses see which of their content is doing best on Facebook in real time, over 5-hour periods. Another update lets software developers monitor user data from the web -- not only smartphones and tablets.

Seventy-seven percent of adults with three or more devices start a task on one device and complete it on another, said Josh Twist, a product manager at Facebook. That presents a challenge for app makers. "We want to help people connect those pictures," Twist said.

You can probably expect more of these kinds of in-the-weeds announcements at F8, along with the consumer-related stuff. After all, Facebook needs to keep those software developers and marketers happy to make money.