Among the new features Zuckerberg announced for Facebook at the F8 developers conference, the ‘like’ button for mobile apps, an app ‘deep-link’ ability, and a way of off logging in to third-party apps anonymously should make Google just a little bit afraid. Not to mention Facebook’s announcement of a mobile ad network.
Facebook’s declarations hint at its aspiration of becoming the central nervous system of the mobile internet, much like Google became the crux of the web, with search, ads, and a strong browser. In fact, Facebook’s new strategy echoes Google’s web tactics almost step for step. With deep-linking, Facebook aims to bring to mobile what Google did with mass data gathering, tracking users and PageRank. Google’s tactics were based on spidering the web: cross-referencing and linking across pages.
Nothing like this has really materialised yet on the mobile internet. If you go to Youtube whilst using the Chrome app, you will be nudged to open it with a dedicated Youtube application, but the same doesn’t happen for other websites. A huge bulk of information is trapped in apps on mobile devices and traditional browser-based search methods cannot reach that information.
Last year, Google launched an initiative to solve this problem. Rolfe Winkler writes in the Wall Street Journal: "Google in the fall launched an initiative to better see — and direct — what smartphone and tablet users do on their devices. The effort seeks to mimic what Google built on the Web, with an index of the content inside mobile apps and links pointing to that content featured in Google’s search results on smartphones.
"Other big Web companies, including Facebook and Twitter are pursuing similar strategies. Facebook is having early success with ads that prompt users to install apps.
"Google’s initiative has won several prominent backers, including online encyclopedia Wikipedia, travel site Expedia, restaurant guide Open Table and the IMDb movie database, all of which are incorporating links into their apps. A search for movie information using the Google search app on an Android phone, for example, may show a link to the movie’s page within the IMDb app, provided the smartphone user has the app installed."
Facebook has started to deconstruct and disseminate its app into broken down, linked apps and services that are starting to dominate smartphone use and increase the customer satisfaction of users by making their lives that much easier to handle. Opening up the source code for its apps and allowing other apps to use Facebook’s functions – ‘like’ features, an ad network, and login functions – only heightens this loyalty. Facebook are hereby starting to exploit the data goldmine that has become so synonymous with economically controlling the traditional web.
Mark Zuckerberg told Wired in an interview from F8: "[Y]ou’re going to see dozens of other apps that developers build that each use the Facebook login, Facebook to share, the mobile "like" button, push notification from Parse, app installs through Facebook, and Facebook monetisation tools in order to turn their apps into businesses. It’s going to be one great community where people will have the ability to share whatever content they want with whoever they want.
"More than 85 of the top 100 apps use Facebook. A huge number of them use Facebook to get app installs, and we’re becoming critical infrastructure for people to build their apps with all these different cross-platform services, like identity sharing, push notifications, app installs, and monetisation."
Facebook’s anonymous login tool. Image: Facebook
Naveen Tewari, CEO of InMobi, comments on Facebook’s ventures: "The launch of the Facebook Audience Network is another clear sign that Facebook is evolving to become a mobile first platform, which is a huge validation of the mobile ad business which we have been invested in for over 6 years. How Facebook manages to balance advertiser interest since they have their ONO property is a critical aspect of whether they will succeed in this business.
"While Facebook’s latest development is important, social media remains just one of the many reasons why people use their phones. We believe the widespread adoption of native advertising i.e. the democratization of native ads, across all mobile apps will be the most significant shift in the mobile advertising sphere.
"Native is completely changing the way we look at advertising, in the same way the introduction of colour television changed the broadcast media landscape all those years ago. Now app developers of all sizes and budgets have the potential to create genuinely engaging in-app advertisements to create a positive user experience. At the end of the day this is what is important, because an ad’s effectiveness ultimately comes down to its ability to encourage an action."
Facebook now has a network of over 1.2 billion people across the world, and its incredibly successful Facebook app is one of the most downloaded mobile applications ever. With further plans to expand Facebook and mobile internet in general with Internet.org, Facebook will surely dominate the mobile internet world if Google doesn’t keep up. Even if users start drifting away from Facebook, as some experts predict, with Facebook features embedded into a majority of other mobile applications. Facebook is spreading its roots and bedding down for the long haul.