Home Web v. Native Apps: Facebook’s Project Spartan, HTML5 & Apple

Web v. Native Apps: Facebook’s Project Spartan, HTML5 & Apple

Can Facebook unseat Apple at its own game, within its own ecosystem? There are reports that the social giant is working on an HTML5 version of its platform that would become a distribution mechanism for Web applications through Apple’s mobile Safari browser.

In many ways, this is what people have been predicting for a while — HTML5 will kill the native mobile application. There are few better companies than Facebook to take up the mantle of HTML5 to foster an environment of Web applications. Facebook has the user and developer base, the social reach and deep pockets to make a big splash in the mobile ecosystem.

Project Spartan

The initiative is being called Project Spartan,

according to TechCrunch

. The report says that about 80 or so outside developers from names like Zynga and Huffington Post have been working a few months on the project. Facebook is trying to beef up its payments system, Facebook Credits, to handle application payments and cut out the iTunes model ingrained into the iOS ecosystem. Project Spartan will come to Android (and probably all of the mobile Web eventually), according to TechCrunch.

It will reportedly work like this: open Facebook’s mobile site and get a drop-down menu of Web applications. Those apps can be opened and then framed within Facebook to give them Facebook functionality.

If this report is true, there are a couple implications to consider. Foremost, Facebook would rise as a distributor in mobile applications, a place where it currently has no presence. Their current application for iOS and Android is relatively uninspired, almost like they have thrown a token app out into the ecosystem until they can build something they see are more revolutionary, such as Project Spartan. Second will be the widespread adoption of HTML5 and the acceleration of its growth as a Web standard. The correlation may be the equivalent negative impact on Adobe’s Flash and its sooner-than-expected banishment from the toolbox of mobile.

Also to be considered is that Facebook, despite its 700 million users and mountains of data, is not suited to be a mobile application distributor. One of the things that Apple and Android have that Facebook does not is that they control their platforms. The idea for Facebook is to wrest control of applications from within the platforms through something that the OS owners cannot fundamentally control – the browser. In the end though, you are still using an iPhone or an Android. What is the incentive to go to Facebook to do something that Apple and Google already make so easy?

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