Facebook just wrapped up its mobile event and put forth the framework for a new mobile applications platform built upon Facebook. Dispelling all rumors of the Facebook phone, CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook is not interested in developing a new handset. Instead of hardware, Facebook will focus on integrating its network into a variety of mobile operating systems by opening up its API’s to mobile developers. “Mobile, social, local” is the familiar mantra.
Facebook will open up three different areas to all mobile platforms. With a few lines of code, developers will be able to tie into Facebook in the following areas:
- Single sign-on: Single sign-on would let developers use Facebook credentials to authenticate user. One login and password would work across a variety of applications and websites, obviating the need to remember different user names and complex passwords. According to Facebook, single sign-in will lead to happy developers and happy users.
- Location information via Places: Places is Facebook’s answer to FourSquare. It is a check-in feature that lets users announce their location as a status update and tag friends who are with them. Facebook previously opened up its Places API to developers so they can read Places data. Today, Facebook added the ability to write new data to Places and search data stored within Places.App developers can leverage the Places locations data to create a compelling, location-aware application. Take for example, an application developed for conference attendees. With the new Facebook places API, the app could let you find other friends in your hotel, check-in and tag friends when you go out to eat, and check the history of a location to see which friends were there yesterday,
- Deals: Deals builds upon the Places API and lets retailers offer rewards to Facebook users. Your local coffee shop would be able to send you a coupon for a free dessert if you check-in when you get your morning coffee. Likewise, a developer could create an application that sends a list of coupon for local stores when you fire up the app. All of these deals would be stored and served up by Facebook.
Zuckerberg made it very clear that these tools are designed to let developers tap into Facebook and use the social network to create innovative and exciting apps for Facebook users. Facebook will still have its own mobile applications but this initiative will build a new platform of mobile apps whose underlying architecture is powered by Facebook.
In addition to the developer tools noted above, Facebook also updated its Android and iOS applications. The iOS application will offer an improved Places feature that will let you tag friends after-the-fact and add pictures to your check-in information. Support for the Facebook’s new Group feature is also now available. Groups, for those that have not used it, lets you group a subset of your friends together so you can share information with a small number of people.
Facebook also announced some big changes to its Android application. Similar to its iOS counterpart, Facebook for Android will now have support for Place and Groups, two welcome additions for this mobile application. Both Facebook for Android and Facebook for the iPhone are available now in their respective app stores.