For years now, Facebook has offered quite a few ways to access the site from mobile devices, and they’ve proven immensely popular. In February 2010 the site had 100 million mobile users per month — today it’s announcing that it’s up to 250 million. To coincide with the growth stats, Facebook has some other news to announce about mobile.
We hear most often about Facebook’s native applications available for iPhone, Android, WebOS, and other app platforms, but a significant majority of mobile users actually access the site from the web. And up until now Facebook’s web setup has been a bit complicated: users on smartphones like Android and iPhones have been directed to touch.facebook.com, which is optimized for large touchscreens. And users accessing the site from a featurephones (and there are a lot of them) would be directed to the more plain-looking m.facebook.com. Today, that’s changing: Facebook is merging touch.facebook.com and m.facebook.com into the same site.
But don’t worry — you touchscreen users aren’t about to be downgraded to the other version. Facebook Head of Mobile Products Erick Tseng explains that up until now having two versions of Facebook’s mobile website has led to issues, because the site’s engineers would have to rebuild the same features twice, leading the two sites to rarely reach feature parity. Now Facebook has launched a new framework based on XHP, Javelin, and WURFL that uses the same underlying codebase, while tweaking UI elements on the fly depending on what device you’re accessing the site from.
In other words, Facebook’s engineers only have to implement a feature once on their backend, and if your phone supports it, it’ll show up. In addition to paying attention to a phone’s hardware capabilities (if your phone doesn’t support location, you wont’ be able to use Places), Facebook is also optimizing graphics on the fly — you can see three different versions of the Share button in the graphic below.
The new site started rolling out last night, and will be live for everyone in the next few weeks.