Over a month ago, we first reported on Project Spartan, Facebook’s secret plan to bring applications to the mobile web via HTML5. Facebook is working with teams of third-party developers that they call their “Spartans” and hope to unveil the project later this summer. As we noted, the key to all of this is really Credits. Right now, Facebook has no way to make money on any of the mobile platforms out there. With Credits bought and sold through the web browser, they’ll have a way. It’s that simple.
That’s why it’s surprising to see Bloomberg report today that “Facebook May Bring Credits to Mobile Browsers“. Um, of course they will. Not only did we report it last month, in a follow-up story, I included a screenshot of the implementation. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s real. No anonymous sources needed.
Either Bloomberg missed that report (to be fair, it was buried in a couple thousands words bashing Facebook PR — more on that in a second) or they weren’t convinced. Either way, I’ll go ahead and include the shot again.
This is also odd since Bloomberg did try to give us some credit for something. Sort of. Half-way down the page we get this throw-away line: “The TechCrunch blog previously reported on Facebook’s HTML5 efforts.” No link, of course. Typically old media jackassery on the web.
Moving on, the real story here remains the one we originally reported: Facebook is attempting to come up with their own way to circumvent Apple’s App Store and Google’s Market, to maintain control of the applications within the Facebook ecosystem.
There are mixed signals out there right now as to whether or not Apple may actually be helping Facebook with this effort in some regard. Because many applications (and most games) on Facebook’s platform right now require Flash, they do not work on devices like the iPhone and iPad. If Facebook could get these working through HTML5, it would be another huge blow to Adobe’s platform — which Apple must love. There is some talk that Apple may be interested in seeing this happen within Facebook’s own iPhone app, and their soon-to-be-unveiled iPad app.
But again, the key for Facebook is Credits. And that’s where things could get very complicated with Apple. If Facebook tries to circumvent the App Store to sell credits, Apple is clearly not going to want that in any native app (unless some sort of deal is struck, which seems unlikely at this point). But Facebook can get around this by going web-only with the functionality.
When we initially reported this, Facebook threw a hissy-fit and tried to spin the press in opposition to our story. This led to the second story where I revealed more about Project Spartan, including the picture of Credits running in a test version of a Spartan app.
Interestingly enough, Bloomberg today comes to the same conclusion I did (a conclusion shared by those actually working on Spartan apps, by the way). “Facebook is seeking to build a software community that rivals Apple’s,” Bloomberg notes, pointing out that Facebook would like a piece of the growing mobile app revenue pie that Apple is seeing.
Let’s see if Facebook PR throws another hissy fit over what is common sense. Facebook wants and needs to make money. Apple wants and needs to make money. Apple owns a mobile platform to do so. Facebook does not. At some point, this will become an issue. A big one.