Facebook's Mobile Strategy: It's All About Global Growth
While many tiny companies devote all their resources to building cutting-edge apps only accessible to the relatively well-off tier of users with smartphones, the huge-by-comparison Facebook puts its effort into mobile as a growth opportunity.
Facebook today released a feature-phone app that is designed to be kind of a gateway drug for both Facebook participation and mobile data usage. The company has arranged deals with 13 carriers to give users of the app free Facebook-related data access for 90 days.
If you look at the countries where the launch partner carriers are from, you can see where Facebook thinks it can grow: Romania, India, Mexico and elsewhere.
Facebook designed the app with partner Snaptu and says it is compatible with more than 2,500 phone models.
Though Facebook started on the Web, mobile is no small part of its usage. Facebook says it has more than 200 million active mobile users, who are twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users.
The feature-phone app follows similar carrier arrangements for Facebook’s speed-optimized mobile Web site, 0.facebook.com.
Meanwhile, those of us in the U.S. with smartphones and iPads reap the attention of start-ups like Instagram and Flipboard, while Facebook leaves us relatively ignored. Facebook’s is the most-downloaded free app of all time from Apple’s App Store (though it’s overdue for a refresh), and the company has no app for the iPad.
Much of Facebook’s effort on the mobile front has been business development rather than technical; it has partnerships with more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries. The company’s head of mobile business development, Ali Rosenthal, left the company last week, saying she would likely pursue a start-up.
Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.