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Facebook’s journey into mobile and its quest to further integrate the Social Graph into more apps

30 April 2014 Ken Yeung No Comment

We all know that Facebook is doing quite well as a public company. One need only look at its last quarterly earnings where the social networking company revealed that it had generated $2.5 billion in revenue, a 72 percent increase from a year ago. It has also grown up quite a bit, maturing to become an all-inclusive service that works not only on desktop, but has essentially capitalized on the mobile market. Don’t believe me? Based on its earnings report, nearly 79 percent of Facebook’s monthly active users are accessing the social network through a mobile device.

It could certainly be said that Facebook is a mobile company and in the past few weeks, it’s been making overtures about its mobile strategy. This certainly made this year’s developer conference worth paying attention to.

While I could certainly regurgitate everything that was announced at the conference, I’ll spare you the reading and instead focus on the analysis. Instead, for the news bit, just read it here.

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Following through on Build, Grow, and Monetize

Mark Zuckerberg, the 29-year old CEO of Facebook, knows that developers are key to the survival and prosperity of the social network — he is one, himself. But rather than running around on stage screaming “Developers! Developers! Developers!” like a former CEO that we know, he told the audience something much more simple: that the f8 conference would be held regularly each year around the same time. Already the plan is for the next event to be held at Fort Mason in San Francisco on March 25.

Sure, there are products and updates that the company can do on its own, which there’s no question that it will do in the future, but it still needs to show developers … and even advertisers, that it knows what it’s doing and is still a beneficial platform to build on top of. Today’s keynote had something for everyone, but it’s all rooted in the mission Zuckerberg laid out when on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt a few months ago, especially as the company grows to reach the next billion users in the world.

Mobile is the name of the game and Facebook needs to have show that while it can play in this arena, it’s going to get by with a little bit of help from its friends — the developers. During the hour-long keynote, the discussion centered around helping developers maximize the power of Facebook in their mobile apps with new tools, such as anonymous login buttons, new Parse resources, new opportunities to advertise in-app, and more.

For the past decade, Facebook has been long-dominant in the Web space. However, as we’re seeing the rise of mobile applications with millions of users, such as WeChat, Line, SnapChat and many others, Facebook needs to reassert its alpha status and demonstrate that it’s still the platform of choice for developers to build on, no matter the operating system or device. As competitors begin to rise and fall, like Google+, Facebook mustn’t be complacent and needs to demonstrate that it’s still the ruler of the social graph, no matter where the data is being used.

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Kicking the Social Graph into high-gear

Seven years ago, at the inaugural f8 conference, Zuckerberg introduced the notion of the Social Graph. It’s been described as being a “graph” of a person’s history and relationships (“the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related“). The term still holds true and Facebook remains the main source of information for developers. But for a while, many of the tools that the company offered were built to support both Web and mobile. Today’s f8 conference highlighted that mobile is more of a priority and may have proved to developers that as they want to build more personalized features for their apps, Facebook is going to be there to support it.

Perhaps it’s also a means of penance for the disastrous Home debacle Facebook had a year ago? As I opined in June 2013, it would have been fascinating to see the social networking company leverage its acquisition of Parse and build a section on Home that would display all the Parse-powered (and now Facebook-supported) third-party apps. However, with a shift in strategy, it may appear that Facebook is divesting itself from trying to control what people have on their phones. Instead, it’s going to get  its capabilities into as many apps as possible and therefore be fully tuned into the ecosystem. And it’s not as if app developers aren’t interested in Facebook, so the Menlo Park-based company should have no problems at all.

The further integration of the Social Graph into the mobile scene will also benefit advertisers as well — many of whom may have grown tired of the standard text-based advertising offered by Google Adwords. The entrance of Facebook with its Advertising Network will surely cause ripples in the native, banner, and interstitial mobile advertising sectors. Companies like Kiip and others could find themselves at a slight disadvantage since the personalized data derived from Facebook’s Social Graph could help developers make more money than with other third-party advertising services.

In the end, Zuckerberg says the new initiatives is all geared towards putting people first — it’s less about the technology, but streamlining the process to help you better connect with others. Today’s Facebook announcements could certainly help developers and Zuckerberg create a more interactive ecosystem.

Ken Yeung is a interactive strategist, project manager, and tech journalist. He's currently a Strategy and Research Content Lead at Orange Silicon Valley. Previously, he was the Bay Area Reporter for The Next Web, the Editor-in-Chief of Bub.blicio.us and a correspondent for Network Solutions' small business blog. These words are his own and not of his employer.