Photo: Matt Rosoff | Business Insider
Today’s announcement of a version of Facebook for low-end feature phones is part of the company’s stated plans to reach literally every person in the world in five years.As Facebook platform manager Carl Sjogreen explained last week, “our focus is making every mobile device, from the lowest-end feature phone to highest-end smartphone, capable of interacting with Facebook in meaningful ways.”
The new app, Facebook for Every Phone, brings Facebook to more than 2,500 phones, including lots of phones used in huge countries like Brazil, India, and Indonesia, where full-fledged smartphones are too expensive for most consumers.
On a basic level this is obvious — like any company, Facebook wants its product to be used as widely as possible.
But Sjogreen also gave an interesting explanation of why being cross-platform is particularly important for social apps.
Take for example the Words With Friends mobile game (which was acquired by Zynga earlier this year). It’s only fun if you can play it with other people. Even if I have it on my Android phone, if my best friend can’t use it on his phone, then neither of us will play.
It’s almost like a reverse-network effect — without broad cross-platform support, you can lose customers on platforms that you DO support.
Sjogreen was explaining all of this as a reason why Facebook is bullish on HTML5 for its long-term developer strategy. By building a platform that lets social developers write their apps once to run on multiple mobile platforms, Facebook is doing them a big favour. Otherwise, they’d have to write native apps for each platform — a big and expensive time sink.
(Facebook still won’t talk about the other big rumoured reason why it’s moving to HTML5 — to create an alternative to the Apple App Store and other single-platform stores, compete with a Facebook-run payments system. But it’s probably true, and it’s a great move in itself.)