Facebook Just Downplayed The Biggest Launch They’ve Made Since Platform for the Web

I’m still trying to understand what just happened. The other day I wrote about finding some information about the upcoming HTML5 platform for mobile launch awhile back. There was a piece of their developer documentation that they had left open, which listed all the launch partners, and provided sample apps, which were publicly visible at the time. I had images, HTML, and the entire mobile SDK to look at and play with – all available publicly when I found it. Of course, taking the honorable route, I notified my friends at Facebook and they promptly closed the documentation in preparation for their launch. I’m now wondering if I had just written about it, if it would have been more talked about than what Facebook just did.

Today Facebook launched their iPad app. At least that’s what you would think if you were just a normal user and had no privy information to building apps for Facebook and weren’t following Facebook’s developer blog. Facebook wrote a blog post, announcing the new iPad app, and only briefly mentioned an app ecosystem that had launched with it. When in reality, Facebook just launched something bigger than the original F8 Platform Launch back in 2007.

What Facebook just launched should have had the pomp and circumstance of another F8, when in reality all they published was a blog post to developers. This should have been a press event lead by Mark Zuckerberg, and it should have been touted as “something awesome”, just like Zuck did at the Skype video integration launch a few months ago. Yes, it’s that big, and I’m extremely excited for this launch – my hope is that others can see the potential. I’m a little worried Facebook didn’t hype this up enough.

Facebook HTML5 Mobile Platform’s Potential


When Facebook Platform launched for web back in 2007, Facebook only had 20 million users at the time. Shortly after launch, regardless of that size, developers were immediately seeing their apps built for Facebook platform go from 0 to millions of users in a matter of days. That was for web only.

Today, with the almost exact same type of launch – this time on mobile – Facebook is giving developers an audience of over 350 million users to target their apps. While not called such, all these apps run under similar experiences to the web “Canvas Pages”, and allow developers’ apps to run as a native part of the existing Facebook app experience. Users never have to leave the Facebook app (which is now on the iPad as well) to use their favorite Facebook apps (think Farmville, or Words With Friends).

It doesn’t stop there though. Developers’ apps now appear in the news feed of the mobile apps, allowing for greater discovery of the apps they build. If users search for their app they can also use it by just typing the app’s name in the search box. That’s the potential of 350+ million users all sharing your app with their friends. In addition, Facebook extended the requests dialog to work with mobile – this means your friends can also invite you to use the mobile apps they’re using on their devices.

With today’s launch you can expect Facebook on mobile devices to grow even further. It’s at 350+ million users now. Just as in the days of their original platform launch, users are now more likely to use the mobile apps, and more likely to get their friends using the Facebook experience on mobile. That means more viewers and users for developers, and a much greater opportunity for entrepreneurs.

HTML5 Goes Mainstream


Perhaps the biggest affect of today’s launch is the affect it is going to have on HTML5 mobile apps. Now, in one fell swoop, Facebook has created its own “app store” which reaches hundreds of millions of users. Developers can create their apps natively, or in HTML5 – it doesn’t matter, and they’ll all work in the experience, across numerous devices. Facebook can just be the means of distributing the app – the HTML5 apps don’t even need to exist inside Facebook!

I think the game has changed for HTML5 after today’s launch. Now developers finally have a choice. They finally have a means to standardize and use a technology that works across any device, and in any browser, but looks like a normal app. Today, with Facebook’s Platform for Mobile launch, HTML5 just went mainstream.

I am stoked about today’s launch of Facebook’s HTML5 Platform for mobile – it’s a huge game changer. It’s revolutionary. To me it’s even bigger than Timeline and the real time ticker that they launched at F8. I just don’t get why Facebook didn’t launch this at F8, or at least, why they didn’t do a special press event to get people more excited about it. I’m really worried Facebook didn’t get their PR in order for this launch – it should have been better prepared, and much better explained to the mainstream press and users.

Today’s launch is big – real big, and I’m not sure I’m seeing enough people talk about it. If you ask most members of the press, they’d say just an iPad app launched today. I’m not sure that’s the news Facebook wanted out of today’s launch.

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9 thoughts on “Facebook Just Downplayed The Biggest Launch They’ve Made Since Platform for the Web

  1. “Users never have to leave the Facebook app (which is now on the iPad as well) to use their favorite Facebook apps (think Farmville, or Words With Friends)”
    As far as I understand what Facebook has launched, that's not true: At least for now, if you use the native Facebook iOS app, you can click on of the the bookmarked apps, but that will either open the native app on your iOS device, forward you to the App Store to download it or open the HTML5 web app in the browser.

    What Facebook isn't offering so far is HTML5 web apps that are directly integrated into the native iPhone and iPad app. 

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  2. But they are – try the Huffington Post app, for instance (search for “Huffington Post” on Facebook for iPhone or iPad). It doesn't leave Facebook. It just takes you to a web view within the app for that HTML5 app.

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  3. Something a lot of people seem to miss also and this is something I've argued about when many were saying that Facebook should buy WebOS from HP or release their own custom version of Android.

    The Facebook site itself is already an app platform, hell with HTML5 App Cache support and maybe some iFrame trickery, they could enable offline use of apps and games and also for them to run in the background (though seeing as the mobile apps run outside of Facebook itself, this may not be necessary).

    Realistically they just announced their Android and iOS competitor by supporting HTML5 apps and games, Apple and Google only have nothing to worry about yet because for now this aids them and Facebook isn't trying too hard yet.

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  4. I think they downplayed it because the app kinda sorta blows. I haven't seen the iPad one in particular, but the new iPhone one is worse than useless. It's slow, buggy, crash prone, and just generally doesn't work properly. They also ditched half the functionality that was in the old application, or hid it behind an impenetrable wall of menu items.

    Most common problem I've seen is that people have been unable to get it to even launch after the upgrade without rebooting their phones first.

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  5. True, that kinda feels like fully integrated into Facebook. It looks to me as if they simply use a built in browser, instead of sending people to Safari (which you get as an additional option).

    Weird though. From all the articles I read about the announcement, it was always mentioned that iPad and iOS app can only open other native apps or the mobile version of an app in the browser.

    Sorry for the false alarm.

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