Facebook Sets Mobile Sights on HTML5
“Mobile is our primary focus for our platform this year,” Facebook CTO Bret Taylor told an audience of developers at the Inside Social Apps conference in San Francisco today.
Taylor said Facebook will emphasize HTML5 development in order to have maximum impact across fragmented mobile platforms for both his company and those who build on the Facebook platform.
HTML5–which is the new browser standard that gives Web applications capabilities on par with native applications–Taylor said, “might be a little ahead of that curve, but that’s where we’re putting a huge amount of investment in the next year.”
Already, said Taylor, 125 million of Facebook’s 200 million-plus mobile users are using HTML5-capable devices like the iPhone and Android.
Even so, when Facebook introduces a new feature, it has to implement it across seven different versions: facebook.com, m.facebook.com, touch.facebook.com, its iPhone app, Android app, BlackBerry app and custom integrations for other handset OSs.
Facebook wants to reduce that friction for its own sake and its developers’ as well. The company’s first step toward this goal was its single sign-on for mobile apps introduced last year, which has already had significant impact on developers like Flixster, Taylor said.
Facebook’s HTML5 push brings it into step with Google, which has put a major emphasis on Web apps despite its own Android mobile OS. But even so, the two companies have had major success with native apps, when they’ve chosen to build them. Facebook has the No. 1 free iPhone app of all time, while Google Mobile for iPhone is No. 3. (Coming in second is Pandora’s streaming radio.)
“Mobile devices are inherently social,” said Taylor, noting that he feels that the combination of mobile, social and location will be an especially fruitful area for products like Facebook Places and Foursquare.
Taylor said Facebook is likely to create its own “high-quality location database”–which would compete with start-ups like SimpleGeo–though it’s not something the company has specific plans for yet.
Addressing start-ups wary of Facebook competing with their products by making them a part of its platform, Taylor said, “Our philosophy has always been to build products into Facebook that are generally useful, which is why we built location into the platform. We felt like it would have a really big impact for developers if they could all leverage a common location infrastructure.”
Facebook’s platform focus in 2010 was about improving user experience, Taylor said, and he considers that effort a success. He said Facebook reduced spam (a.k.a. unwanted posts about games like FarmVille and other applications) by 95 percent last year through policy simplifications.
Though it shut down ways for applications to recruit users, it wasn’t like Facebook prevented games from growing, said Taylor, citing the fantastic ascent of Zynga’s CityVille, which grew to 100 million users in 40 days, compared with the four years it took Facebook itself to reach that number.
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