Facebook Seeks Bigger Role in Software for Mobile Apps

Facebook Inc. is angling to play a bigger role in shaping the way software gets developed for mobile devices. The social network, which has turned its popular website into a platform for developing games and other add-on programs, so far hasn't wielded the same influence on mobile gadgets like Apple Inc.'s hit iPhone and iPad. But there are signs the company is trying to change that situation.
Facebook executives, among other things, are encouraging developers who write Facebook apps to do so for mobile devices using a relatively new technology standard called HTML5. The company has also been using HTML5 to enhance its own mobile offerings, which are used by more than 250 million people to tap into its services.
Some app developers and analysts believe Facebook's underlying motivation is to position itself as an alternative development platform for programmers that now tailor mobile apps specifically for Apple's iOS operating system or Google Inc.'s Android. Technology blog TechCrunch reported that Facebook is working on a mobile platform dubbed "Project Titan" that was designed to bypass Apple by using the HTML5 technology that works with the iPhone and iPad's mobile browser, Safari.
Bret Taylor, Facebook's chief technology officer, wouldn't discuss forthcoming products. But he did express strong support for HTML5, an update of the Web's fundamental programming technology that is expected to allow apps to be written for use in browsers on different operating systems—including iOS and Android—without needing to be completely rewritten for each.
Mr. Taylor said the technology can help Facebook and app developers reach new users and "close the gap" between existing Web and mobile user experiences. But he doesn't view HTML5 and apps written directly for iOS and other operating systems as an "either-or" decision.
"Facebook and all of our developers will choose both," Mr. Taylor said. "You want to reach as many people in as many places as possible." Facebook could in the future also play more of a role in helping users discover apps on mobile phones, he said, but declined to specify how it would do so.
HTML5, developed with contributions from many tech companies and organizations, has a growing number of supporters in Silicon Valley. Apple, for example, is backing the technology as an alternative to Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash technology as a way to add interactivity to Web applications. Such technologies can address major pain points for mobile-app developers—for one thing, making it possible to create one version of a program that works on multiple devices, rather than devoting scarce resources to making multiple versions of apps. Facebook could use its own popularity and data about the habits of users' friends to help mobile-app developers gain greater visibility, say some developers.
Facebook has been courting smaller developers for its HTML5 project, promising those who use it greater promotion of their apps, one developer said.
App companies, in theory, could also more quickly update Web-based apps. One of the limitations of the Apple App Store system is that developers must submit app changes to Apple, which then has to approve the changes before the apps are updated. However, developers that write Web apps using HTML5 could instantly push out changes, one developer said. An Apple spokesman declined comment.
But app developers say Facebook's effort faces challenges. For one thing, HTML5 applications such as games can look dated compared with apps written for specific mobile devices. Those apps also are better at exploiting a mobile device's camera, location, graphics circuitry and other hardware features than Web-based apps. Outfit7, which developed a popular app called Talking Tom Cat, said it has been in communication with Facebook in recent months. But it has decided not to support HTML5 for now because the company doesn't see how it could help the user experience.
"Native-like experience doesn't mean the experience is the same," said Andrej Nabergoj, Outfit7's chief executive. He said HTML5 doesn't have the voice and video support necessary for its apps, and that HTML5 presents more performance challenges the more complex an app becomes. "We have to care about what is in the best interest for the user," Mr. Nabergoj said.
Facebook, for the moment, is a long way from being as dominant in mobile as it is on the Web. Currently, its software for mobile phones doesn't allow users to directly access the apps that many users use on Facebook's ordinary website.
The apps are a growing source of revenue for the company, which makes money from displaying ads and taking a 30% cut of virtual goods sales, whose transactions take place in Facebook's own currency called Credits.
Facebook already offers a software-development kit so that iOS apps can incorporate many aspects of Facebook's technology, such as signing into games and services with users' Facebook accounts, Mr. Taylor said.

Views: 2351

©ictnews.az. All rights reserved.

Facebook Google Favorites.Live BobrDobr Delicious Twitter Propeller Diigo Yahoo Memori MoeMesto

14 April 2024

13 04 2024