Facebook for All Phones.
Facebook is releasing a major upgrade to its mobile interface, unifying its mobile websites into one interface.
The social network currently has two primary mobile websites: touch.facebook.com, designed for high-end smartphones with touchscreens, and m.facebook.com, suited for feature phones with a touch interface.
Facebook says having to maintain multiple mobile websites has stifled its ability to innovate and forced the company to build new features for multiple code bases.
Starting today, Facebook will be unifying its mobile presence on m.facebook.com. “There will no longer be a difference between m.facebook.com and touch.facebook.com,” Facebook’s Lee Byron said in an official announcement. “We’ll automatically serve you the best version of the site for your device.”
Facebook also announced that 250 million people — around half its user base — are actively using Facebook mobile on a monthly basis.
Erick Tseng, Facebook’s mobile chief, says this change should not only provide a more consistent user interface across mobile devices, but it will make it easier for Facebook to push out new features — since all of its mobile websites now share the same code base.
Users may see different changes to the mobile interface, depending on what device they use to access Facebook. Some mobile UIs will appear relatively unchanged, while others may look and feel significantly different. The new framework is smart enough to know when to deliver a touchscreen experience complete with CSS3 and HTML5, while customizing itself for feature phones, devices without keyboards, and mobile OSes with major bugs.
Facebook’s mobile website.
Using social media is one of the most popular things people do on their phones — and not just on smartphones.
A new analysis indicates that more mobile Facebook users are posting by using the mobile site m.Facebook.com (a service that’s friendly to Web-enabled feature phones, the next step down from smartphones) than all of Facebook’s smartphone and tablet apps combined.
Social media researcher Dan Zarella recently posted the results of his analysis of a random sample of more than 70,000 Facebook public posts (status updates, videos, links and photos) made by Facebook users who have open privacy settings.
Facebook’s Android, iPhone and Blackberry apps are the next most popular mobile posting tools, supplying slightly more than 4% of posts each, for a total of about 13% of all posts.
Although some commenters to Zarella’s post voiced disbelief about these findings, it’s not too surprising.
According to comScore, as of March, nearly 70% of all mobile handsets in use in the U.S. were feature phones.
While some smartphones are gradually getting cheaper and many feature phones are getting smarter, the high cost and typical two-year contract commitment required for most smartphones in the U.S. mean that feature phones will probably remain a huge part of the U.S. mobile market for some time.
Most feature phones are capable of browsing the Web — although they usually have limited browsers and slow data connections that make this experience challenging. Still, many feature phone users do use their Web browsers regularly, especially for popular sites that are optimized for simpler browsers.
Also, feature phone Web use may rise sharply over the next year as Opera Mini becomes the default Web browser for new feature phones powered by Qualcomm’s BrewMP platform, used by about 90 million handsets worldwide.
In April, Facebook announced an upgrade to m.facebook.com, designed to integrate the full range of features found in Facebook’s other mobile site (touch.facebook.com) optimized for phones with touchscreen browsers. This move was part of Facebook’s strategy to streamline its mobile development efforts to create “one mobile site to rule them all.”
But clearly, Facebook also recognizes that feature phone users represent a huge and largely untapped mobile Web market — far bigger than the current smartphone market.
Facebook Mobile Web App.
Facebook has great ambitions, it doesn’t want to be just another site, it wants to be another web. It wants people spending all of their time inside Facebook, whether it’s listening to music, watching movies, or playing games and everything else.
The music and movie part it’s already got covered, with the launch of the extended Open Graph. But it’s also been working on expanding its app platform.
The success of companies like Zynga is enough to prove that Facebook’s platform is a powerful asset. But, so far, it’s been limited to the desktop, mobile devices, where apps are at home, were off limits.
But that won’t be for long. There have been plenty of rumors about Project Spartan, Facebook’s HTML5-based app platform for mobile devices.
Now, it’s ready to go live. It’s been ready for a while, but, as has been the case several times, Facebook has been holding off on releasing it until it can come to terms with Apple.
It’s nearly done that, according to TechCrunch, and the mobile web platform could be launched along with iOS5 and the iPhone at the big event Apple is holding next week.
But if that falls through, which it still might, Facebook is prepared to go at it alone, and launch the platform at its own event on Monday.
Whatever happens, Facebook is very determined to enable developers to create apps, with standard web technologies, that run on mobile devices and desktops alike.
The apps will live inside Facebook, specifically, inside the Facebook mobile website. From there, users will be able to access any of their apps through a bookmarks menu.
Facebook has been working on this for months and it’s been working with developers for this long as well. So, when the platform finally launches, there should be a solid selection of apps to choose from.