How Facebook Plans to Take over the Mobile World
There has been endless articles and complaints surrounding the fact that Facebook does not have its own native iPad app. The truth is, no one really knows why the social marketing giant does not recognize the iPad for what it is, an industry pioneer. However, the latest news about Zuckerberg’s plans might shed some light on the cold shoulder he has shown Apple for the past few years.
Of course, this is not confirmed by anyone, but maybe the reason Zuckerberg has not released an iPad app on the App Store is because he wants to release one on his own app store, a Facebook branded app distribution channel. Sound unrealistic? Keep reading.
Based on various TechCrunch reports in the last few days, Facebook knows all too well just how big the mobile space is and how crucial it is for the company’s future to bring its Web dominance to the mobile phone.
Facebook’s shift of strategy from a Web company to a mobile entity is starting to show its face. Of course, Facebook is not alone and just this week we witnessed how Google now launches new features on mobile phones, and only then pushes it to the desktop.
Facebook’s jump into the mobile ring is composed of several steps, two of which became apparent to us this week.
Facebook Photo Sharing Platform
By now, we are all very familiar with the booming trend of mobile apps that enable photo editing and sharing. Instagram leads the way with over 5 million users, 100 million photos, and a 100,000 new users who joined the service last weekend alone.
The newest development is that Facebook itself, with its 100 billion hosted photos, 6 billion photos uploaded monthly, and 700 million active users will be launching its own app for photo sharing.
Here is the thing with Facebook’s mobile development skills. Historically speaking, they rock, and based on initial photos of the app, this app is no different. The Facebook native app is the most downloaded iPhone app ever and this new photo app, whether integrated into the Facebook app or as a standalone, will really give other photo sharing apps a run for their money.
The secret to the success of a Facebook photo app is in its numbers. In fact, whether Facebook launches a photo app, a video sharing app, or any other app that involves sharing with your friends and contacts, the fact that the company brings 700 million users means the app will almost automatically become an overnight success.
Facebook App Distribution Channel
OK, as big as the photo sharing trend might be, that is not how the company intends to leave its mark on the mobile space. The next piece of news, also coming from TechCrunch implies that Facebook is entering the mobile game on the distribution front, which as far as apps are concerned, is the most crucial component of the development process.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook has elaborate plans to create its own app store, which will be HTML5-based and will run on top of the popular iOS browser, Safari.
That’s right. Facebook knows it cannot compete with Apple from within the App Store given Apple’s tight grip on the whole iOS ecosystem, but the Web is an open space and Safari is the vessel Facebook is going to use to its advantage.
This new Web-based app store is part of a new mobile platform code-named Project Spartan and its initial goal is to reach 100 million mobile users via Safari.
Supposedly, there are already more than 80 developers working with Facebook on Project Spartan, including big names like Zynga and Huffington Post, which will surely help the new app store take off upon launch.
The basic concept of how this new app distribution channel will work is as follows. A user opens Safari, accesses Facebook, and is presented with a dropdown displaying apps to download. Once downloaded, the app will appear within a Facebook wrapper that will have some basic Facebook functionality, including payments and most likely social sharing.
Of course, all this is hot off the press so many questions remain unanswered, but one thing is for sure, if this is even partly accurate, and TechCrunch has apparently seen the new project first hand, then this may symbolize a true reversal in app distribution and monetization, as far as the industry is concerned.
Many experts claim they do not see this Facebook HTML5 app store taking off and users will always prefer the native app experience with Apple’s tight integration over a Web app experience, even if it is Facebook-branded.
Of course the other side to that coin is that an HTML5 Web based app environment will offer true cross-platform distribution, as well as a significant decrease in app development time and resources. Develop once, deploy for all platforms. This can mean a heck of a lot more revenue for developers, whether they charge per download or use other models of app monetization, such as in-app advertising. Of course, that would require Project Spartan to be available on other mobile browsers, but that is the next logical step with Android numbers continuing to explode.
The one point that is undisputable here is that Facebook, like others before it, now clearly recognizes the explosive potential of the mobile phone and its surrounding ecosystem. Why is there no Facebook iPad app? You can be sure it is not because Facebook does not intend on entering the space, it might be because it wants to make a grand entrance on its own terms.
This post has been written by Hillel Fuld. Hillel is a tech blogger who manages multiple sites such as Technmarketing, Appboy, and inneractive. In addition, Hillel has written on many leading online publications such as Mashable, Gigaom, and others. In addition to his blogger hat, Hillel is an active Twitter personality who defines himself as a “Social media addict”. When Hillel is not blogging or tweeting, he is the Head of Marketing for inneractive, a mobile startup that deals with app monetization across all mobile platforms.