Facebook to grow application portfolio

Facebook has said that the company's future will see more application development and the release of additional tools to help businesses and people connect.

Facebook currently owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, and, according to Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton, these applications are laying a foundation for what the company has planned next for the applications market.

Speaking at an event in Sydney hosted by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce this week, Easton said that one of the three key focuses for the company in the medium term will be around building the next generation of applications, which will be added to the overall ecosystem.

"Facebook in five years will look very different to what it looks like today. We'll be building out a portfolio of applications that really service different people's needs. We feel pretty good with the progress we've made today," he said.

Easton said that while there's still a long way to go, to date, Instagram already has 200 million users across the world and is growing faster than Facebook was in its early days. He added that WhatsApp has 600 million users and is on a "strong trajectory" to reach 1 billion users in the next few years. Messenger, which broke out of the native Facebook application, is the fastest-growing app, with 500 million users in the first four months, twice the size of Twitter in a four-month period.

In line with this strategy, Facebook has announced the availability of its latest Creative Lab app, Rooms, in Australia. Launched in the US, the UK, and other English-speaking countries last month, Rooms is an app that lets people "create places for things you're into, and invite others who are into them too", similar to a private online forum or chat room.

Easton said the company will also look at new tools, products, and services for businesses "to help them better connect" with its audience in terms of marketing and selling products and services. Today, 40,000 businesses in Australia are using Facebook, with Easton noting that the number is expected to grow in the short to medium term.

At the same time, the social networking company said it will continue to focus on building products and services to help the average person engage and connect in ways with "other people, places, and other things they really care about".

On that note, Easton turned his focus toward the company's commitment to "building the communication platform of the future", hinting that the company's latest acquisition of virtual-reality technology firm Oculus will play a role in that.

"Our view is when we look at the future of communications and technology, virtual reality will be an integral part in the way we communicate," he said.