On Wednesday, Facebook announced new developer tools for building the social network's features directly into third-party apps running on Apple's mobile operating system. The new release will let apps for iPhone and iPad take advantage of an unprecedented array of Facebook activities. More than that, it could change the way mobile apps are developed and make it easier for the apps on your smartphone to work together.
Last month, Facebook leaked plans for a “faster” iPhone app by the end of the summer. But yesterday’s announcement suggests that Facebook is offering more than just speed. A blog post by Facebook engineer Jason Clark announced a new version of the company's software development kit. The post hinted that third-party firms and startups will be key to helping Facebook boost its mobile offering.
In addition to bolstering Facebook's upcoming integration with iOS, which is now in beta and scheduled for release as part of the next version of iOS, Clark wrote, the social network opened an iOS development center. All of the changes will make it "easier and faster to develop Facebook-integrated iOS apps."
Tom Kuhr, senior vice president of products for video app developer Frequency, said that the changes will let his company’s iPad app find a new and bigger audience. Using the updated software development kit, developers can build apps that let Facebook members use their Facebook account to log into third-party apps on their mobile devices, just as they can currently on many Web-based services.
“One of the biggest problems with the [earlier] Facebook SDK is lack of awareness of other apps on the device and vice versa,” Kuhr said. “Our challenges are especially acute because our users are sharing video, which much of the time will only play inside our app, not in the Facebook app or on Safari, due to Flash restrictions on iOS.”
The unprecedented level of integration between Facebook and the iPhone and iPad essentially lets apps communicate with one another, instead of having to go through an app-to-browser process, Kuhr said. And it allows developers to dispense with having to build an account and log-in process for each app. Moreover, authentication of Facebook passwords for third-party apps will happen in iOS instead of the app itself, increasing efficiency.
“The new SDK will enable us to make this process seamless. A Facebook app user can effortlessly view a video or video channel on the Frequency app after clicking the link in Facebook - and never lose the link or lose context,” Kuhr said.