Ina Fried

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Facebook’s Mobile Story Is Apparently a Story for Another Day

Facebook had plenty to say last Thursday about its plans to further take over the Web.

But those looking for answers on how that might translate into mobile success came away from the f8 developer conference knowing little more than they did before the event.

It’s not the first time.

In fact, it seems to have become a regular habit: Facebook again talked about a world of mobile device, yet introduced products that were far more focused on the Web.

Mobile wasn’t completely absent on Thursday. The company outlined a strategy for allowing apps — including mobile apps — to automatically send data to Facebook’s activity feed. Facebook also talked about its ability to use one’s social connections to suggest apps that one’s friends are using.

The company also stressed that most of what it was showing, such as the Timeline, will be available on mobile devices. One thing it didn’t show was a long-anticipated iPad app, but perhaps that will come at the Oct. 4 Apple event.

Or not.

So, just what is Facebook up to on the mobile side?

The company has made a few moves, although they seem to be either looking to the past or looking toward a day that is not yet here. On the one hand, Facebook has acquired Snaptu, which does apps for feature phones.

Much of the company’s other public work on mobile has centered around HTML5, a promising Web standard that could serve as a platform for apps down the road, but still has enough compatibility issues and technical limitations to make native app development preferable for most mobile programmers.

That’s not to say that Facebook doesn’t get it.

The company has talked about building a mobile platform for some time and clearly has aspirations in that area, having staffed up significantly as well as shifting existing resources from desktop toward mobile.

One of the challenges is that, short of doing its own phone and/or operating system, Facebook finds itself somewhat beholden to Google and Apple when it comes to doing transactions on the iPhone or Android.

Apple, in particular, takes a dim view of those that want to control the payments side of things without giving Apple a 30 percent cut.

Officially, Facebook says what it has been saying for a while. It does want to be a platform on mobile, but plans to work within the existing ecosystem, as opposed to building its own phone or operating system.

While Google said the same thing for a long time and then introduced Android and Chrome OS, Facebook’s mobile aspirations seem continue to ride in the back seat of the drive to take over the Web.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google