Ina Fried

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Mum on Own Phone Plans, Facebook Aims to Make Mobile Web App-Friendly

Facebook initially thought if it offered to send mobile developers lots of traffic, they would bring their apps to the mobile Web.

It turns out, it was more complicated. Even with Facebook, mobile developers still need a consistent Web platform, as well as a simple means to get paid.

And, since that is a problem Facebook can’t solve alone, the company is asking for help. At Mobile World Congress on Monday, the social networking giant announced plans for separate coalitions aimed at unifying mobile Web standards and enabling simpler carrier billing for Web apps.

“Our interests are really aligned with a lot of our partners,” CTO Bret Taylor said in an interview.

What Taylor wouldn’t talk about were the company’s plans to build its own phone, an effort code-named Buffy that was the subject of a series of articles last year.

Mobile is critically important for Facebook, as it is a growing source of the company’s traffic, but not yet a major source of revenue.

As for what Facebook hopes to be in mobile, Taylor said he would be happy if the company were seen as a major place to discover mobile apps.

“If we can accomplish that, Facebook is really the mobile company we want it to be,” he said.

It’s unclear, though, whether that would be enough to allow the company to replicate the huge financial success it has had on the desktop.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald