Facebook's new App Center could increase tensions between the site and Google and Apple, with Zuckerberg's desire for mobile stability forcing him to carve a niche in-between existing app store behaviors. Although long-standing rumors around Facebook's Project Spartan have painted it as an HTML5-centric landgrab against iOS and Android, the App Center we've seen revealed this week is more a middle-man between Facebook users and the current App Store and Play Market. Driving Facebook appears to be desperation, as mobile device use increases without a matching rise in monetization.
Facebook App Center basically offers profile pages for third-party apps, giving them a central place to sell their services to would-be mobile users. Intended for Android and iOS devices, those apps which require downloads will link directly to the existing stores on each platform; however, browser-based apps, such as those using HTML5 rather than local code, will run from the App Center page.
The common factor for all apps featured on App Center is that they will use Facebook Connect to log users in. That's where the social network hopes to see its return, and it's something that's becoming increasingly important that it gets right as the IPO approaches.
Facebook's IPO roadshow is putting a positive spin on the social network's potential, but it's in an amended SEC filing that the company spills its mobile concerns:
"We believe this increased usage of Facebook on mobile devices has contributed to the recent trend of our daily active users (DAUs) increasing more rapidly than the increase in the number of ads delivered. If users increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers, and if we are unable to successfully implement monetization strategies for our mobile users, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our financial performance and ability to grow revenue would be negatively affected"
The company warned of the precarious mobile situation back in February, spilling details of its huge mobile userbase but confirming that it currently has little in the way of monetizing them. In fact, mobile Facebook users grew by 76-percent in 2011 and are expected to continue to increase in 2012. Facebook also namechecked Android and iOS as possible barriers to future profit, should it not manage to cement its position on mobile devices:
"We are dependent on the interoperability of Facebook with popular mobile operating systems that we do not control, such as Android and iOS, and any changes in such systems that degrade our products’ functionality or give preferential treatment to competitive products could adversely affect Facebook usage on mobile devices"
With support for paid apps (as well as existing in-app payment options) for App Center distributed software, Facebook is obviously taking another step in its smartphone strategy. Right now, though, it's unclear whether acting as a middleman will be sufficient to ride those climbing user numbers to a higher IPO result.