Got a crush on another Facebook user? The social network will help you connect, as part of a revamp unveiled on Tuesday that aims to foster real-world relationships and make the platform a more intimate place for groups of friends.

The new features were introduced in a revamped Facebook app as the embattled social network embarks on a new strategy emphasizing private communications and small groups.

“As the world gets bigger and more connected, we need that sense of intimacy more than ever," Zuckerberg said as he opened the F8 developer conference for the social networking giant. “That’s why I believe the future is private."

The new app made available to US users on Tuesday aims for a new direction for Facebook: it eliminates the blue background and offers a range of new ways to connect, in line with Zuckerberg’s vision to move away from the “digital town square" to a “digital living room".

Facebook’s shift comes in response to criticism over failing to curb misinformation and manipulation of the platform used by 2.3 billion people, and missteps on its handling of private user data.

“It can be hard to find your sense of purpose when you are connected to billions of people at the same time," Zuckerberg told the developers gathered in San Jose, California.

“Privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves."

The redesigned application, to be followed by a new Facebook website, symbolizes changes in how Facebook runs its business, Zuckerberg said.

“I know we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly," he said.

“But I am committed to starting a new chapter for our product."

Changes announced on Tuesday put groups at the centre of the experience and add dating, friend-making and events features intended to promote people getting together in real life, Facebook’s new app head, Fidji Simo, told AFP ahead of F8.

The redesign is meant to make it easier for users to take part in communities, whether based on friendships, family ties or common interests, according to Simo. “It’s definitely part of Mark’s bigger vision," she said.

The new design gives users more options for private and group connections.

While counterintuitive, Facebook sees the change as potentially bringing people with opposing political viewpoints together rather than separating them in “filter bubbles".

“We are seeing that groups can bridge people across dividing lines," Simo said.

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