Facebook Launches a Big Improvement to Its Events Feature
A couple of months ago, Facebook told us all about how Events were going to change. TL;DR: They were going to get way better, way prettier, and way more useful. Today, Facebook is launching one component of the improved feature with a way to browse events. Now you can search events by topic—but only if you have an iPhone, and if you’re in one of the 10 major U.S. cities included in this initial rollout.
But if you fit that description, then navigate to your Events dashboard and check out the new sections there. You should see things like Music, Food & Drinks, Sports & Fitness, and so on. You can browse by location as well.
Since flipping the switch on Events over a year ago, Facebook has really given priority to its planning hub. You’ve probably seen more public events in your feed, and possibly noticed an uptick in notifications about private parties your friends have invited you to. Those News Feed placements and gentle reminders (and plenty of other little tweaks the team has implemented) have worked. More people are creating public, community events, and those events are getting a lot of attention and a lot of attendees. More people are actually RSVPing to private events also, and using those pages for photos and chatting even when the party’s over.
Why Not a New App?
Really, it’s starting to feel like Events could be its own app: browsing, invited, bookmarking, RSVPing, scheduling, calendaring, buying and using tickets, checking in. So why isn’t events its own app? For one, that’s a lot of functionality to live inside a social network that, features-wise, is already bursting at the seams. If an event app is going to do it right, it should be a combination of Eventbrite, Yelp, and for social purposes, Facebook—which is a lot of different things to be. A year or two ago, it would have been expected for this launch to come with its own packaged app. Paper and Moments were standalone apps that could have easily just been woven into the Facebook fabric, but instead the company pushed those services into their own apps, a strategy that it seemed like Facebook would continue using.
Except that it hasn’t: The social network recently launched live videos for all users, formerly the main feature of its standalone Mentions app, and killed Creative Labs, home for app experimentation, along with Slingshot, Riff, and Rooms. But if you thought you could predict a trend from these moves, you cannot! At the same time as shuttering all this, Facebook launched the Notify app, and its Groups app is soldiering on.
It’s All About Your Data
But really, the reason Facebook isn’t creating an Events app is because it doesn’t have to.
“For Facebook to want to build a standalone app, it typically either wants to stifle potential competitors or test new ways of interacting with users,” says Digital Clarity Group analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe. Basically, he says, Facebook doesn’t even have to do something well, it can launch an app and based on its name recognition, kill the competition, grab a new audience’s attention, and gather data for itself. Later, the company can do whatever it wants with that app—kill it or keep it—and still have all that new user data it can fold into its massive social platform.
“A good example [is] getting teens engaged again with Facebook, and it’s doing this successfully via Instagram,” says Pelz-Sharpe. “Over time, those users will hopefully be reintroduced back into the core Facebook family.”
Events is also doing fine all on its own, and lately the usability has gotten significantly better. Right now, the mobile Events tab lets you toggle between upcoming events, invitations, events you’ve bookmarked, those you’re hosting, and those you’ve already gone to. You also see some “popular in your area” events, but it’s pretty limited. Facebook will blow this out so you can actually, actively search for something to do. And that’s more than can be said about popular apps that have traditionally been more focused on what’s going on in the community. I recently spent a Saturday morning looking through Yelp to see what was happening around me to no avail. If Facebook can unlock that, and also encourage my friends to go, it will have an easy advantage.