Facebook app strategy reveals one truth: The big money is in mobility


Facebook has only created eight of the more than 34,000 apps that have been built on its application programming interface. However, the handful of releases the social network has concocted are telling indicators of what direction the company is headed.

It's been approximately seven years since Facebook first stepped into the world of mobile app development, releasing its API in 2007 and flanking it with a markup language to carry over the aesthetics of the desktop site to mobile devices.

Facebook offers three standalone apps, available on both Android and iOS: Messenger, Facebook Pages Manager and the core Facebook app. Android exclusives include Home and Slingshot, while Facebook apps available only on iOS include Mentions and Paper.

Recently, Facebook unleashed its Rooms app on iOS and stated its intent to bring the forum-like software to both Android and desktops.

Apps like Slingshot and Rooms have been deemed Snapchat and Whisper clones by some, but the spinoffs of Facebook's core services into mobile software have sought to corner the market rather than compete. Instead of siphoning off some of the fattened installed bases of app developers it has envied, Facebook has attempted to do to the likes of Snapchat what it did to Myspace.

IBM and Apple are pushing their MobileFirst initiative into workplaces, Twitter wants to weave its Fabric API into every mobile app, Microsoft is singing it's a "cloud first, mobile first" world out there, and Facebook is simply going all in on a concerted push to tablets and smartphones.

Mobile devices are becoming the stage and the cloud its crew. What's awaiting companies that successfully establish themselves on either platform is a wealth of ad revenue and royalties.

"There is seemingly little that can get in the way of Facebook given its hegemonic status in the world of online advertising, matched only by Google," stated Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser. "By our estimates on new industry data from trade group the IAB, Facebook alone accounted for fully 52 percent of total growth of all online advertising including paid search during the second quarter of 2014."

During a call with investors, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said the company's strong third quarter indicates how well the social network's push onto mobile platforms is working.

For the quarter ending Sept 30, Facebook reported its ad revenue of $2.96 billion was up 59 percent year-over-year. While the company didn't reveal a specific figure how much mobile ads accounted for in that number, Facebook placed the amount at around two-thirds.

With the release of Facebook's new Atlas advertising platform, the social networking company is primed to harvest even more data from users and heat up the war with Google over consumer eyeballs.

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