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Nov 12, 2008

Is Facebook the mobile web’s killer app? Is sharing the future of the web?

Is Facebook the mobile web’s killer app?

Posted by Steve O'Hear @ 8:29 am

Active users of Facebook’s various mobile products has grown from 5 million to 15 million since the beginning of the year, says the company. In particular, the ability for users to not only update their ’status’ while on the go but also to comment on their friends’ updates, has spurred mobile use of the site.

“When we recently added the ability to comment on your friends’ status updates to the Facebook mobile site, we didn’t expect that we would receive nearly a million status comments in the first 24 hours”, writes Facebook’s Wayne Chang on the company’s official blog.

While that particular tidbit is interesting, it should be no surprise that mobile versions of Facebook are proving popular. Not when you take into account that Facebook offers two browser-based mobile versions of the site — one for low-end feature phones and another for ’smart phones’ — as well as native Facebook clients for Blackberry, Palm and iPhone. Notably, the Palm version runs on the smartphone maker’s entry level consumeroffering, the popular and affordable Centro. While television ad campaigns that aim to push the Blackberry beyond its business roots and into the hands of consumers pitch Facebook access as a major selling point. Ditto some of the most recent ad campaigns for Apple’s iPhone.

See also: BlueWhaleMail: Facebook messages “pushed” to your cellphone

And it’s not just high end smartphones that are getting their own Facebook client application.  As I wrote over at last100, a new low cost cellphone that puts Facebook and other social applications at its center will debut this week on Hutchinson-owned 3 in the UK and Australia. The new handset has been designed by another Hutchinson subsidiary, INQ Mobile, and is the first of a number of “low cost social mobile” offerings in the pipeline. INQ has been working directly with Facebook in order to offer better integration than is available on existing low end handsets.

Handset makers clearly see Facebook as a way to sell more phones but what’s in it for the carriers? Aside from picking up or retaining subscribers, the telcos hope to get more people using the mobile web in order to sell more data.

“For 85 percent of our customers, we can’t really sell more than voice and text,” INQ Mobile’s CEO, Frank Meehan, told Unstrung. “You need to drive data usage higher right across all the handset segments. You want the majority of customers, not the top-end of the community that rules strategy at the moment.”

See also: Snap2Face: Facebook lands on Windows Mobile

Facebook Mobile Sees 3X Growth to 15 Million Users This Year

Facebook announced last night that the company has seen users of its mobile site, m.facebook.com, jump from 5 million to 15 million this year. The most recent change made to the site, allowing comments to be posted on status messages from your phone, resulted in more than 1 million mobile posts in the first 24 hours.

While these numbers are still relatively small compared to the total number of Facebook users (under 10%), it's huge for mobile social networking. Facebook has a really good mobile site and it looks like it's only getting better.


Facebook Mobile is now probably bigger than the entire userbase of Mixi, Japan's leading social network and a site that is very frequently accessed by mobile. Last week 6 leading Japanese social networks, including Mixi, MySpace Japan, Yahoo and others, announced that the companies are forming a mysterious alliance that could include content and widget sharing across their mobile sites.

We're curious how that kind of strategy will work compared to Facebook's strategy of building up a huge siloed web based social network and then creating a simple but extremely usable mobile version.

Zuckerberg’s Law of Information Sharing

Mark ZuckerbergMark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. (Credit: Craig Ruttle/AP)

On stage at the Web 2.0 Summit on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, was cheerfully unruffled.

Mr. Zuckerberg pinned his optimism on a change in behavior among Internet users: that they are ever more willing to tell others what they are doing, who their friends are, and even what they look like as they crawl home from the fraternity party.

“I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before,” he said. “That means that people are using Facebook, and the applications and the ecosystem, more and more.”

Call it Zuckerberg’s Law.

Mr. Zuckerberg is too low-key to compare his observation to the law first articulated by Gordon E. Moore, the co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years.

But if it turns out to be accurate, Mr. Zuckerberg’s prediction may turn out to be just as important to society.

And if Facebook is even half as good at exploiting Zuckerberg’s Law as Intel was at exploiting Moore’s Law, Mr. Zuckerberg will be a very happy man indeed.

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