SAN FRANCISCO -- In response to privacy concerns, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday unveiled new tools that will allow Facebook users to test drive apps anonymously and reveal far less information and better regulate how they share apps on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
Unlike previous f8 Facebook developer conferences, Zuckerberg said the social networking giant had no "big new product announcement or new direction." Instead, Facebook is focusing on helping app developers build a more stable platform for mobile devices that also offer Facebook users greater privacy.
"We have to do everything we can to put people first," Zuckerberg said, telling the developers that "people want more control over how they share their information, especially apps."
Facebook users can now limit the amount of information that they share through mobile apps, along with the information of their Facebook friends, Zuckerberg said. Facebook users who want to try out a new mobile app also can log on anonymously across all of their mobile devices -- without revealing their real identity or any information, he said to widespread applause.
Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said the upgrades announced Wednesday don't address the larger concerns about the U.S. government's abilities to demand data about people's social networking activities.
"While it may not address those core problems," Enderle said, "it certainly does make it less likely that you're going to embarrass yourself accidentally. It's certainly not a step in the wrong direction. It's a step in the right direction."
Facebook also has made it easier for users to navigate through different sites on their mobile devices -- booking a flight, reading a book or listening to a song, for example -- with a new standard it calls "App links," said Ilya Sukhar, Facebook's product manager.
Pasting Web links to various sites via email works great on desktop computers, Sukhar said. But on mobile devices, he said, when "I get stuck in a mobile Web browser, when I get stuck logging in ... I can't get to what I want to do."
With no unified system to navigate through websites across different platforms, Facebook's new system "frees these apps from these silos" by nearly instantly translating Web addresses into their mobile equivalents without requiring Facebook users to log onto each page, Sukhar said.
"We crawl the Web for you. You don't have to do it," Sukhar said.
Developers only need to tweak one line of code that Sukhar called "super simple."
Facebook also announced new mobile "like" and "share" buttons that will roll out over the next few weeks.
Ime Archibong of Facebook's strategic partnership team called the new mobile buttons "an easy, lightweight way" for Facebook users "to be an evangelist for your app."
But users will be able to restrict how widely they evangelize for the apps through a single tap of a messenger button that lets them dictate who they want to share songs, videos and other links with.
Facebook is also making it easier to remind users to come back to apps they may have visited only once, Archibong said.
The reminders are actually app engagement ads, but Archibong compared them to being "like a nice reminder from a friend."
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced several changes to Facebook's mobile apps, some of which are aimed at increasing privacy for users: