Facebook shakes up app store status quo

Nick Dillon/ Ovum
07 Nov 2011

At its f8 developer conference in London last month, Facebook provided further details about its move to extend the Facebook Platform to mobile devices, which was announced the previous week.

Looking to replicate its success on the desktop, Facebook has finally brought its application platform and open graph to mobile devices, launching on Facebook’s HTML5 mobile website in addition to its native iOS and Android applications. Developers are able to tap into Facebook’s social marketing channels, in addition to its identity and payment systems, on mobile devices.

While claiming modest objectives of simplifying mobile development, the move has the potential to impact players across the mobile industry. Facebook’s mobile web platform challenges mobile platform providers’ (most notably Apple and Google’s) control of their application ecosystems. It could also further disintermediate mobile operators by providing an alternative for both mobile payments and identity services.

Facebook’s mobile services have to date offered only a subset of the functionality provided on the desktop web version of the social network. The mobile services were focused on the consumption of content, with a few basic functions such as the ability to provide status updates and upload photos.

Despite this limited feature-set, mobile access to the social network has been incredibly popular and it is currently the most popular application across all smartphone platforms. Facebook claims that 350 million of its 800 million subscribers now access Facebook from a mobile device.

One key aspect that Facebook Mobile lacked was the ability to access Facebook third-party applications. Not only can users now access Facebook applications, but developers can also tap into Facebook’s social graph and push updates via Facebook social channels to mobile devices.

In addition to making it easier for developers to market their applications through users’ social channels, Facebook has also made it easier for users to start using and accessing applications, by adding the ability to authorize applications from mobile devices and adding a “bookmarks” tab for quick access to previously used applications. Facebook has launched this service on its iOS and Android native applications, in addition to its HTML5 mobile website.

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