Open SourceSoftware

Facebook Upgrades Workplace Among Other Developer Updates

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Slew of developer announcements from Facebook includes new deep learning framework for mobile devices

Facebook has made a number of announcements at its F8 developer conference in San Jose, California this week.

Among the announcements are the social networking giant’s open-source Caffe2 deep-learning framework; updates to its Workplace by Facebook (its team communications tool); and an open source framework to enable Android developers to develop more efficient user interfaces.

It is a busy time for the social network, thanks to the fallout from the recent live streamed murder on the platform and the growing menace of ‘fake news’.

mark-zuckerberg-facebook-news-feed

Intelligent Mobile

One of the first announcements concerned the open-source Caffe2 deep-learning framework, which is being targetted at mobile devices such as Android devices, iPhones, and low-power computers like Raspberry Pi.

Essentially the Caffe2 AI toolkit allowed Facebook developers to train AI models and build apps, and now it has been open-sourced, it is available to the wider developer community.

“Training and deploying AI models is often associated with massive data centres or super computers, with good reason,” blogged the firm. “Deploying these models on mobile devices so they’re fast and lightweight can be equally daunting. Overcoming these challenges requires a robust, flexible, and portable deep learning framework.

“Facebook has been working with others in the open source community to build such a framework. Today, we’re open-sourcing the first production-ready release of Caffe2 – a lightweight and modular deep learning framework emphasizing portability while maintaining scalability and performance.”

Facebook also said that it had worked closely with NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Intel, Amazon, and Microsoft to optimise Caffe2 for both cloud and mobile environments.

facebook-workplace-1

Enterprise Comms

Another announcement from the F8 conference is an update to its team communications tool and competitor to Slack and Microsoft Teams, otherwise known as Workplace by Facebook.

Perhaps the biggest news is that Facebook is now offering a version of this tool for free.

Other updates to the tool however include the ability for it to work with applications from rival tech companies such as Microsoft, Box, Dropbox and Salesforce. Essentially this will allow users to share documents and information all without leaving Facebook.

It is also adding bots into the Workplace experience in both Messenger and Group chat.

Litho Open Source

Facebook also used the conference to reveal that it has open sourced Litho, which until now was Facebook’s inhouse framework for creating efficient user interfaces on Android devices. The firm said it is relevant to it as more than 1 billion use Facebook every month on Android devices.

“Last year, we shared that we were working on a new framework for creating efficient UIs on Android,” Facebook added. “Building on the success we’ve seen with React, we wanted to deliver a simple API for defining user interfaces from declarative components, with performance as the primary goal. We designed the framework to be fast, even for our complex products such as News Feed.”

“We’ve started using this framework across many surfaces in our Android apps, including Facebook, Messenger, Facebook Lite, and Workplace, and have seen an improvement in scroll performance of up to 35 percent. Today, we’re excited to open-source it as Litho, and we hope to enable Android developers everywhere to develop more efficient UIs while writing simpler code.”

“With its simple, declarative API, Litho frees developers from painstakingly hand-optimising their Uis.

“Litho lays out components ahead of time in a background thread, and renders incrementally to deliver best-in-class performance for your users,. We believe Litho solves challenges that are not unique to Facebook. This is why we’re excited about what Litho can do for Android developers everywhere.”

Quiz: What do you know about Android?