The Facebook Platform just got a lot bigger.
The native Facebook applications for iPhone and iPad, as well as m.facebook.com, have been upgraded to support further integration between Facebook and applications built on the Facebook Platform. In a blog post and new documentation page (which looks awfully like the one accidentally released a few weeks ago), developers can find tools and information to start supporting the Facebook Platform on their mobile applications, either on native versions or HTML5-based web apps.
Facebook has been working on what was known as “Project Spartan” for many months, and by all appearances this is the grand unveiling of the project. (We’ve known Project Spartan was called by a different name inside Facebook for some time.) It comes, not coincidentally, with the release of the long-awaited iPad native application, which was also rolled out this afternoon.
Previously, apps on the Facebook Platform could only be accessed on the traditional facebook.com from a desktop computer, leaving mobile users without the capability to play games or run applications from their devices.
Now, if a user selects an app from the native iOS application or the mobile site, one of two things will happen. If the application – say, Words With Friends – is available as a native iOS application, Facebook will launch or install the app and authenticate the users’ credentials. If the user accesses the app via m.facebook.com, Facebook will launch the device’s browser and redirect the user to the mobile version of the game or app, built using HTML5 and related web technologies. These apps will be bookmarked after the first use, so users can easily access them in the future. Developers can add Facebook Single Sign-On functionality to tie their native app to the iOS Facebook application through the iOS SDK.
Opening the Facebook Platform up to mobile devices is intended to make games and apps much more social. Until today, a user on Facebook from their desktop wasn’t able to play a game with a friend using a smartphone or tablet. Now, mobile Facebook users can interact with their desktop-using friends when accessing supported games or apps. Seeing as how 350 million people access Facebook from their phone or tablet every month, this opens up a huge new user base for developers and publishers.
Facebook notes that native support is for now only available for iOS devices – they expect to expand support to Android devices in the near future. However, non-iOS users can access HTML5-based web apps from m.facebook.com that offer much of the same performance features as native applications. Facebook is offering web app development tools for building games and applications that run in any smartphone or tablet’s browser. Here’s what Facebook engineer Luke Shepard wrote in the blog post announcing the new mobile Facebook Platform:
We have worked closely with some leading developers to create great new mobile web apps and we’re just getting started. Today, you can enjoy apps from Audiovroom, Branchout, Flixster, Gilt Groupe, and Huffington Post, and games from EA, Moblyng, Storm8, Wooga, and Zynga. You can try out these apps by visiting fb.me/mobileappshowcase on your phone or tablet. Most of these apps are built using HTML5, providing an experience that seamlessly works across iOS, Android, and other mobile devices.
Facebook will be hosting a Mobile Hack event on October 28th in Silicon Valley to help developers familiarize themselves with the new mobile capabilities. You can register for the event here if you plan on attending.
What do you think of Facebook’s latest effort to crack the mobile market? Let us know your thoughts about the new mobile Facebook Platform in the comments.
Images courtesy of Facebook