Facebook pushes to streamline mobile

Read time 2min 50sec

Facebook is putting its weight behind industry-wide initiatives to help develop the mobile Web by addressing the core issues of mobile browser fragmentation and payments.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona yesterday, Facebook CTO Bret Taylor said the social network would partner with carriers and other industry players in order to improve the overall mobile Web experience.

According to Taylor, Facebook currently has over 425 million users accessing the network via mobile. “If you look at 100 different devices, you'll look at 100 different versions,” said Taylor.

He explained that Facebook is working with a group of over 30 operators, device makers and developers (called the W3C Mobile Web Platform Core Community Group) to push the development of HTML5 mobile Web standards.

Participants in the group include the likes of Samsung, HTC, Nokia, ZTE, Sony, Microsoft, Mozilla, as well as multiple operators and developers.

Taylor also announced that Facebook is donating a new mobile browser test suite to the Community Group, which is designed to measure compliance with HTML5 standards. “Standards are only as good as their implementations in the field.”

In the mobile payments space, Taylor said Facebook would partner with operators from around the world to streamline the process. Taylor called the payments experience on the mobile Web “broken” and criticised bulky implementations that detract from the flow of apps.

The new partnerships will allow developers to be provided with a single SDK to allow for simple technical verification, allowing users to purchase apps and content on their mobile devices via operator billing. This partnership would allow carriers an opportunity to cash-in on the revenue stream from which they have been sidelined by the likes of Apple and Google. Operators already on board are Vodafone, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telef'onica, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, KDDI and Softbank.

Dangerous ally?

In a post on the Facebook Developer blog, director of developer relations Douglas Purdy says Facebook has more people accessing Facebook on the mobile Web than via its top native apps combined. “We hear from developers that there are three challenge areas that make it hard to build on the mobile Web: app discovery, mobile browser fragmentation and payments.”

Purdy says Facebook can address the problem of app discovery head-on through integration with its Open Graph (which allows for optimisation for the new Timeline design). “Mobile browser fragmentation and payments, on the other hand, are industry-wide problems that no individual company can fix by themselves.”

Reuters quotes research director of British telecoms consultancy STL Partners Andrew Collinson: "Short term, Facebook is a good ally for the telcos. The danger is that, I think, it will eventually have to move into communications to justify its valuation.”

It is essential for Facebook to begin monetising its mobile services. In its mammoth IPO filing, Facebook highlighted a potential concern for investors, stating: "If users continue to increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers, and if we are unable to successfully implement monetisation strategies for our mobile users, our revenue and financial results may be negatively affected.”

See also