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Facebook’s DeepText Sees And Learns From Everything You Write

Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

Facebook introduced its DeepText AI this week. It is a deep learning-based text understanding engine, which allows Facebook to sieve through and understand several thousand posts per second across 20 languages.

Facebook will be able to decode from your posts, whether you are looking for a ride or trying to sell your bike and automatically assist with relevant services. DeepText learns from statutes, comments as well as your private messages.

This is an important move on Facebook’s journey to becoming your digital life companion. The News Feed is one of the most powerful features of Facebook’s stickiness. Its users post 400,000 new stories and 125,000 comments on public posts every minute. One portion of these are directly actionable requests. The other tells a lot about users’ attitudes and behaviours. Assigning the right context to each allows Facebook to benefit on multiple fronts, simultaneously:

Increased time spent: Quite simply, the more posts users find interesting the longer they’ll hang around to catch up with their News Feed.Increased engagement: The longer users spend on the site and the more relevant posts they see, the more they are likely to share, like and comment. Besides higher engagement driving ad revenue, it allows Facebook to learn yet more about its users and thus…well, drive more revenue.Improving ad-targeting capabilities: Facebook already has strong targeting capabilities. But understanding text will bring it to the next level. To illustrate how far this could go, just imagine Facebook allowing advertisers to target users who are currently dissatisfied with a competitor’s service (e.g. Vodafone targeting local O2 customers who posted a dissatisfied rant in the last two weeks).Setting strong foundations for a plethora of third party services: There will be no shortage of brands interested to utilize the insight Facebook collects from text. They already advertise on Facebook, some of them even sell products through their pages, but with DeepText Facebook will eventually be able to recommend and facilitate the services in real time – all within Facebook’s ecosystem. This will open door for Facebook to further improve its revenue potential and growth, which will become increasingly important to the Wall Street as the platform’s user growth will eventually slow down due to saturation.Bringing authenticity back: Videos and third-party (ie. non-friend generated) articles have been gradually taking over users’ News Feed, as the platform decided to prioritized rich content to keep engagement high. But that also meant that the authentic vibe initially comprised of friends’ updates began to feel more like an artificially curated digital digest of Buzzfeed’s production efforts and the likes. Understanding text better allows Facebook to bring it back to the forefront of the News Feed mix and thus improve its authenticity without risking a decline in engagement. In other words – Facebook temporarily downgraded text because it couldn’t profit off it as well as it could from video and picture posts. Now, that it seems to have found a way to do this , we are likely to see more text based friend-generated updates returning to the mix.

Next Stop – The Ultimate Service Facilitator

Facebook entered the third and crucial stage of becoming the ultimate mobile consumption portal. First it gave users a destination to stay in touch. Then it gave them lots of content to entertain themselves in between interactions with friends. And now that users are sentimentally locked in, Facebook will push its third party services to the skies. Indeed, anticipating and offering real time solutions to requests within its ecosystem removes a major reason for users to ever leave the platform.

DeepText is yet another move that illustrates where the future of mobile mainstream consumption is headed. That is away from the silo-nature of apps and websites, and towards a small handful of all-encompassing mobile content and service ecosystems. As this happens and traditional apps gradually become less relevant, Facebook will extend itself into a full-fledged distributor of mobile experiences, next to the current Appstore and Google Play powerhouses.

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