Of the buzz that is being generated regarding the upcoming Facebook F8 Conference, one that hasn’t yet been explored is the possibility of an announcement about a new Mobile platform. As of currently, Facebook is on the iPhone, the Blackberry, and just today an app for Windows Mobile was announced. For all others there is still a mobile version of the site that formats Facebook in a nice, easy to view format.
One thing you may not know is that Facebook actually has a special FBML tag for developers to use for the mobile platform (the tag). It ensures certain content will only appear if the user is on a mobile phone. This tag however only seems to work on certain phones, and seems flaky at best. Facebook has also provided an SMS API for apps to be able to send SMS to and from Facebook. As you can tell, there is tremendous potential for a large number of Facebook applications to come forth that utilize these tools.
One thing I noticed at F8 is that there is a particular session specifically devoted to developing Mobile Apps for Facebook. The session is titled, “Made for Mobile”, and per their Facebook Page for the event:
Mobile devices are opening up and creating new opportunities to build Facebook applications that extend beyond the Web. We’ll talk about methods for mobile development and engage in a Q&A on how to get started.
This is the first time I have seen an emphasis by Facebook to developers on their mobile platform since they released development tools for it about 6 months ago. Now, this could just be a re-emphasis to get developers again focused on developing mobile Apps, but I think there could be more to it – I think Facebook could be about to announce an entirely new platform for mobile, further expanding the web-based social network they now operate.
Considering the new iPhone releases this week (on the 11th), and will introduce many more opportunities to integrate with GPS and high speed internet connections (including push notifications!), it would make sense for Facebook to expand their own offering to the mobile phone. Also, according to Dave Morin, Senior Platform Lead for Facebook’s Tweets recently, there is some evidence that mobile has been on his mind, with one about him being at Apple for “some meetings”, another talking about an “EPIC Product breakthrough”, and another recently helping a friend get set up with Twitter on his Blackberry. It should also be noted that Morin used to work at Apple, so I’m sure the iPhone is at the top of his mind when it comes to mobile platforms.
These obviously aren’t “silver bullets”, but I believe there is some merit in Facebook wanting to have a presence on the mobile phone. There are, after all, 3.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, exceeding over half of the human population, and roughly 10 times that of the world’s internet users. With the new tools the iPhone is providing to pinpoint location, it provides the ideal environment for any social network to pinpoint where their users are and provide thorough, targeted advertising, with push notifications to those users. It also provides an opportunity to get to many of those in remote locations that do not have the opportunity to access a computer due to lack of phone lines. This could be that one path into good monetization Facebook is looking for and you better bet they’re not excluding it from their future.
I strongly feel that the 3 big players in the mobile phone industry in the future are Apple, Google, and Facebook. I really think that F8 will be the place that all starts, and I think that is the big news Facebook is waiting to announce but has yet to reveal.