April 19, 2014

Facebook makes Mobile Push at Mobile World Congress

One of the interesting things about the discovery period for Facebook’s initial public offering was that the social media giant reported that it had literally no income from the mobile environment. Since mobile is the top form of access this is surprising.

It is obvious that this is one of the most important market segments for the company to monetize as the opportunities are huge. And it has started to lay out its plans during a public speech by Bret Taylor, Facebook’s chief technology officer at this week’s Mobile World Conference in Barcelona.

In its push it is also striking a blow against a number of companies such as Apple that have been able to cash in on the markets demand for apps. Apple reaps as much as 30% of the revenue from app sales.

Taylor laid out a series of moves the company is currently working on that could tremendously enhance its position in the mobile market, including an effort to partner with mobile carriers for billing on Facebook transactions and the establishment of cross platform standards.

In the mobile payments market it is working with carriers to fix a process that it calls broken and fragmented. It is talking with a number of players including Vodafone, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, KDDI and Softbank.

It wants to streamline the process and reduce the number of steps needed to make mobile payments. App developers would sell their offerings from the carriers via Facebook, allowing carriers to garner some of the revenue for the apps that are often used on their networks and allow app developers to avoid paying Apple, Sony and others a portion of their revenue.

It seems to me that the issue here is that this is letting Facebook become a partner in this, how do you then later stop them from gaining a more controlling position and adding on revenue for themselves from the users and or carriers as well?

On the standards side Facebook is part of a workgroup called W3C Mobile Web Platform Core Community Group that is seeking to develop HTML5 standards for the mobile web. The recently formed group has 30 members that come from a wide spectrum of mobile players from carriers to web browser developers according to its web site.

The current members of the group have a very impressive lineup. Samsung, HTC, Sony Mobile Communications, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE, TCL Communication, AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone, Orange, Telefónica, KDDI, SOFTBANK MOBILE Corp., Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc., NVIDIA, ST-Ericsson, Intel, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Mozilla, Opera, Microsoft, Adobe, Netflix, VEVO, Zynga, @WalmartLabs, Electronic Arts, Sencha and Bocoup.

Of course a prestigious lineup is no guarantee of a successful solution but it seems that it is the interest of these players to have a more efficient mobile web and as long as there are no hidden agendas in the group hopefully we will see a stead stream of updates from the W3C showing progress.

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