Zuckerberg shows off upcoming Facebook features

Created in corporate hackathons, features like GIFs for comments, offline communications and shared photo albums are likely soon

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Facebook executives are showing off new features and technologies that could be added to the social network in the not-so-distant future.

Using Facebook Live, company co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with different groups of engineers and developers who showed off what they had created in their latest corporate Hackathon.

While some of the projects are the beginnings of large, long-term efforts, others could be available to users early in 2017.

"The Hackathon prototypes that are good break down into a few categories," said Zuckerberg. "There are what I call little features, like adding GIFs to comments. That probably will be ready to ship sometime soon. Then there are things that are more showing off what an idea might be. It shows this is a cool thing and then we have a team work on it for a month or maybe a year until it's ready to go."

As Zuckerberg noted, one of the features demonstrated during the Live event involved enabling users to post GIFs in comments.

The feature would let a user tap a button to pop up a menu of GIFs to search through and use.

"I think this will be widely used," Zuckerberg said. "It's not just about taking a photo and posting something and putting it out there. It's about interacting with folks after that."

Another prototype would allow a Messenger user to request a friend's location, while yet another feature in the works focuses on offline messaging.

Using Messenger Lite, which is a basic version of Facebook's app to be used on older, less powerful phones, and Wi-Fi Direct, which enables devices to connect without a wireless access point, engineers are working on technology to let people create a peer-to-peer communication with nearby friends.

"Even if you're in an area where you don't have access to the Internet at all or you don't want to pay for data...these phones can message from one to the other directly not going through the Internet and not going through Facebook," explained Zuckerberg. "They're just talking directly to each other."

That technology could be ready to launch in a few months.

Zuckerberg also noted that he had been wanting to work on this type of feature but hadn't mentioned it to the team that actually began working on it.

"This is an example of how the company works," he said. "Code wins arguments. People spend a lot of time talking about what to build next -- and I don't know if this is the next thing we would have gone to normally -- but now you've started building it and we'll probably ship a version of it because you've shown that it can work and it's not far off from building."

Another feature in the works uses artificial intelligence to help users create photo albums that various friends can contribute to, as well as a video stream compiled from a group of friends.

For instance, if people went to a wedding, they could all contribute photos from the event that Facebook would compile into a photo album.

And if it's someone's birthday, the person's friends could make short videos and Facebook would stitch them together into a looping video.

The engineers are using machine learning to identify when people want to create a photo album or video stream.

"They're talking about using some basic A.I. techniques to read what a person posted to understand if they're asking for friends to create a photo album or post videos," said Zuckerberg. "You don't necessarily have to add a keyword or press a button. It just understands what you're entering and does the right thing."

Facebook's Hackathons give employees time off from their regular jobs to work on their own Facebook-related projects.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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