Rumor has it that Facebook is trying to sidestep Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market with a neat technical trick: a Web-based platform for apps.
Facebook has yet to confirm the existence of the effort, allegedly code-named “Project Spartan.” But if the rumor is true, the effort could threaten Apple and Google’s dominance in mobile software, and give a boost to Web applications over native apps, by appealing to Facebook’s huge and captive user base and by leveraging the social connections between users.
Facebook already lets developers build apps to run on top of its platform, and they’ve created thousands of games, utilities, and even business apps. But these are designed for the desktop, not the mobile or tablet platforms that are growing rapidly in popularity.
“If the rumors are true, it means that Facebook is planning to use Web technologies to create a whole new app ecosystem for iOS-based and other mobile devices,” says Ron Perry, chief technology officer at Worklight, a company that provides tools for building mobile applications.
Facebook could also increase its influence in the mobile market by creating a platform for apps that Apple would never approve, or giving developers more favorable terms than the current 30 percent cut.
All this might make it seem inevitable that Facebook would undertake something like Project Spartan. But to succeed at creating an alternate Web-only app ecosystem and payment platform that spans many devices, it will need to overcome a number of challenges.