We’ve written about Famo.us a time or two before, but for those who missed it: Famo.us was started in 2011 by Steve Newcomb, just three years after his language processing company Powerset was snapped up by Microsoft for $100 million and rolled into Bing. While it confused a few of the judges when it debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012, Famo.us went on to raise a $4 million dollar Series A just six months later.
In a way over-simplified nutshell: Famo.us pulls off a whole lot of clever trickery to allow web developers to tap the GPU of a device (be it that of a computer, smart TV, tablet, or a phone) for calculations, no plug-in required. To the developer, that means being able to build interfaces that are simultaneously richer and faster. To the end user, that means super-snazzy user interfaces without having to install any plug-ins.
Check out a demo of a Famo.us-powered UI below (or check out http://www.famo.us yourself.):
So with a few million dollars raised, how will Famo.us start bringin’ the money in?
They could charge developers. For-pay frameworks aren’t unheard of, though they tend to be the exception. That’s not Famo.us’ plan, though. As of this morning, Famo.us has confirmed that their framework will be free to developers for “as many … apps as you’d like, for as many users as you’d like.”
Instead, Famo.us is relying on the interest of a few huge hardware vendors who are looking to Famo.us to power their UI on future devices. They’ll build (or help build) the UIs, then charge the vendors for licensing. Additionally, Famo.us will offer optional enterprise add-ons (think analytics, or the ability to record/replay user sessions to see how they navigate your design).
Exactly which hardware vendors have taken an interest here is currently under strict lock and key, but we can certainly narrow it down a bit. There are only so many “huge” hardware companies with the financial swagger to make something like this worthwhile. Apple is focusing mainly on native code right now (though they’ve done more than their fair share of contributions to HTML5 by way of WebKit), so it’s presumably not them. Meanwhile, both Samsung and LG have been dumping cash into HTML5-focused operating systems (Tizen and webOS, respectively) for their upcoming hardware.
Finally, Famo.us is also announcing that their framework, which has thus far been focused solely on rendering, has picked up a physics engine along the way. Steve says they set out to find a physics engine that fit three criteria: it had to be fast, it had to work on mobile, and all of the data had to render to the Document Object Model in a way that left it Google-friendly. When they couldn’t find one that matched all of the above, they decided to build their own.
It may seem strange for a framework that’s meant primarily to be used with interfaces to offer up physics functionality — it’s not a game engine, after all — but it makes sense: when you’re working with objects being thrown around in space (be it 2D or 3D space) it’s hugely advantageous to be able to work with forces that parallel the real world, like mass, gravity, and drag.
Plus, it fits hand-in-hand with the way Steve explained Famo.us to Anthony Ha just last month:
“We built a shitty game engine which is basically the best app engine ever built.”
Famo.us is currently in beta sign-up mode, and Steve says they have around 27,000 developers waiting to start building. Interested developers can find the sign-up page here.
Disclosure: We like to note when there are potential conflicts, so it’s worth noting that TC Founder Mike Arrington is one of the investors in Famo.us’ Series A.