Back when Facebook announced its Open Graph Protocol, I wrote that Mark Zuckerberg is a helluva ambitious bloke. He doesn’t want Facebook to be just another website we use every day, he wants Facebook to become an integral and essential part of our daily lives. Open Graph enabled Facebook to weave itself into the fabric of the web, and collect huge amounts of data on our preferences and interests.
Now, if TechCrunch is to be believed, Facebook is working on a new platform aimed squarely at mobile users. The new platform, codenamed Project Spartan, will leverage HTML5 and other web technologies to deliver mobile applications and games. The initial target will be iOS devices (iPhones and iPads running Mobile Safari). However, given that it will essentially be a HTML5 based platform, it shouldn’t be too hard to extend Project Spartan to Android and other mobile platforms.
According to the report, there are about 80 outside developers currently working with Facebook on Project Spartan. Facebook will essentially act as a wrapper around these apps, and support sharing options and monetary transactions (through Facebook Credits). The app developers are expected to roll in their applications within the next couple of weeks, in preparation for the impending launch of Facebook’s app store.
Mobile app stores are blossoming and even the little known ones like Opera Mobile Store are pulling in hundreds of thousands of downloads per day. Given its huge user base and cross-platform presence, Facebook obviously believes that this is another segment it can compete in. While browser based apps have the advantage of being cross-platform, the lack of system level access (access to APIs) will also make them restricted in many ways. Facebook’s app store won’t be able to outperform or eliminate Apple’s App Store and Android’s Market. However, it doesn’t need do. Even if it succeeds in grabbing a decent percentage of users, Project Spartan will be a lucrative platform that will steal a significant amount of revenue from the likes of Apple. And of course, it will give Facebook foothold in another segment that initially seemed to have little to do with the social network.