New “Project Spartan” initiative from Facebook looks to circumvent iOS App Store

Thu, Jun 16, 2011

News, Rumors

Given how similar Apple and Facebook are to the extent they both want to wield absolute control over their products, the latest rumor emanating out of Silicon Valley isn’t all that surprising.

TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook is working hard on a new secretive initiative dubbed “Project Spartan” that will be an entirely new HTML 5 based platform with the intent of providing mobile users with a sleek Facebook experience housed completely outside of the popular iOS app.

Facebook will never admit this, but those familiar with the project believe the intention is very clear: to use Apple’s own devices against them to break the stranglehold they have on mobile app distribution. With nearly 700 million users, Facebook is certainly in the position to challenge the almighty App Store distribution mechanism. But they need to be able to do so on Apple’s devices which make up a key chunk of the market.

Shoring up support, Facebook has reportedly reached out to 80 or so developers, including Zynga and the Huffington Post, to help them get Project Spartan up and running. Work on the project has reportedly been ongoing for the last couple of months and the company hopes to officially roll things out in the next few weeks.

MG Siegler was actually able to get a sneak peak at Project Spartan. Here’s what he had to say.

Imagine loading up the mobile web version of Facebook and finding a drop-down for a new type of app. Clicking on one of the apps loads it (from whatever server it’s on depending on the app-maker), and immediately a Facebook wrapper is brought in to surround the app. This wrapper will give the app some basic Facebook functionality, as well as the ability to use key Facebook elements — like Credits.

One thing the App Store has nailed is an easy payment system. Facebook has been attempting to build the same thing with Credits, but so far hasn’t done much in the mobile space. With Project Spartan, they intend to have Credits built-in to alloy developers to sell apps and offer in-app purchases. This will be vital for a partner like Zynga, for example.

As Siegler relays, we wouldn’t really call this a threat to Apple, but Adobe on the other hand might have reason to worry. And as for Facebook Credits? Umm, yeah, good luck with that.

So can Facebook’s upcoming HTML 5-based platform become a distribution center for games and other apps that exist wholly outside the iOS App Store? We wouldn’t bet on it. What’s in it for developers that aren’t specifically courted by Facebook? Are they gonna bet their business on accumulating “credits” instead of cold hard cash from the millions upon millions of users who currently use the iOS app store? Not likely.


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