It’s perplexing to me that Facebook still hasn’t released an iPad app. And recent comments from the company suggest that they’re in no hurry to. Because of this, apps like Friendly have risen that wrap Facebook’s touch site in a cocoa skin and sell it for $0.99. They’ve undoubtedly made a killing doing that. Now the popular visual RSS reader, Pulse, is about to add Facebook support as well. Luckily, they’re doing it for free. And it’s fantastic.
To be clear, Pulse has not made a full-fledged Facebook client for the iPad. But what they have done is integrated Facebook into the overall Pulse experience so that you can do some social exploration in a very visual way.
The latest Pulse update, 2.1, which just went live in the App Store for the iPad, has three key Facebook features: Shared Links, Status Updates, and My Wall. Each of these created a new Pulse feed to show links your friends are sharing, their status updates, and updates posted to your wall, respectively. And when you click on any of these items to open them within Pulse, you can like or comment. And the app will pull all likes and comments from Facebook itself. It’s a really nice integration.
Facebook and Twitter have been two of the most requested features that Pulse users have been asking for, co-founder Akshay Kothari tells us. They’ve had some level of Twitter integration for a while, but they’re working on a better one. But he says they wanted to focus on Facebook first to really nail it.
And this is a big move for Pulse because it represents one of the first big moves for them away from RSS. Most feeds coming into Pulse are still controlled that way, but this Facebook integration gets around it by looking at social link sharing instead.
Kothari notes that when they started pulse (as a school project), they wanted to release something quickly, so they focused on RSS, which is fairly universal. But now there’s a ton of information coming through social streams, and it’s a great way to discover rich content that you might not otherwise find, Kothari says.
“But it has to be both,” Kothari continues. “Looking at only your friends’ articles doesn’t meant that’s all that’s relevant to you,” he says.
In terms of the rivalry with Flipboard, which is heavily based around the social sharing aspect, Kothari notes that it’s an exciting time for the entire ecosystem. But he has no interest in the magazine-style interface that Flipboard uses. Instead, it’s important that Pulse allows you to quickly browse an article then hop back into your stream, he says. Pulse opens stories in a smaller window while keeps your stream on the side, similar to the Twitter for iPad app, which Kothari notes he’s a big fan of.
This new Facebook integration will be coming to the iPhone verion shortly, Kothari says. And it’s actually already baked into the Android build.
He declined to give any specific numbers, but noted that growth has been going strong since they made all the versions free. And while that was a significant revenue hit for the company, he thinks it was worth it, as they can now take the great engagement numbers they were seeing and grow them to big time levels.
This latest version of Pulse also supports multitasking, one of the new features in iOS 4.2 for iPad. You can find Pulse here.