We've been piling loads of criticism on Facebook for not having a clearly articulated mobile strategy as it pushes towards its initial public offering. Today, the company took the first step towards allaying those fears.
Bret Taylor, Facebook's chief technology officer, wowed the Mobile World Congress Tuesday, uneviling a series of moves that are aimed at positioning Facebook as a leading mobile player. Perhap most noteworthy is Facebook's push to partner with mobile carriers to allow carrier billing for Facebook transactions.
As the Verge's Brad McCarty notes, "Though carrier billing is nothing new, Facebook has essentially brought about an entire app store ecosystem, and it's an ecosystem that doesn't care what OS you're using or who made your phone."
That's good news for Wall Street analysts and potential investors who worried how Facebook would expand its revenue base beyond advertising. But it's also good for users who will find it easier to make purchases. By Facebook's own estimates, it takes what is now an eight-step process and turns it into a three-step process.
Today's announcement is less pleasant for competitors like Apple. The new initiative encourages app designers to build apps that work directly in Facebook mobile. An app designed by Zynga running in Facebook's Apple app, for example, currently nets Apple a 30% cut of the revenue, Moving those apps to an open Web, as the company is proposing with today's announcement, gives Facebook more control.
For app developers, the incentive is obvious. Taylor, according to the New York Times, pointed to the role Facebook played in the success of Pinterest and Spotify.
"Facebook is the single-largest driver of traffic to Spotify," he said, noting that 7 million people had signed up for the service through Facebook and those users were twice as likely to use the paid version of the music listening app.
In conjunction with the mobile billing push, Facebook also said it plans to develop a standards group for mobile browsers and introduce a browser test suite. Both initiatives underscore the dramatic push into mobile. Netflix, Zynga, Electronic Arts, Vevo and Adobe are among the companies working with Facebook on the browser initiative, which the social network is calling the W3C Mobile Web Platform.
The goal of W3C is to streamline standards and offer usrs a consistent experience among the 2,500 different mobile products currently used to access Facebook.
Among the first mobile carriers to partner with Facebook are T-Mobile, Verizon, Orange, Vodafone and Telefonica.
"We're unlocking the business potential of the mobile Web," Taylor said. "Fundamentally, Facebook is a mobile product."