You might not think Facebook would be making waves at Mobile World Congress, but you’d be wrong. Today the social network announced its new mobile billing service – signaling it very much intends to compete with mobile app stores, namely iOS and Android marketplaces.
First, the details of the announcement: Facebook is partnering with AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, Vodafone, KDDI, and Softbank Mobile Corp. to begin its own system, which will allow users to make charges via the Facebook platform as long as their phones are covered by one of the above mentioned networks.
Facebook is also pushing to standardize HTML5, an effort that would make it easier for developers creating mobile apps – payment based services included. To that end, Facebook has introduced a test service called RingMark. “There’s rampant technology fragmentation across mobile browsers, so developers don’t know which parts of HTML5 they can use to deliver their apps to customers,” CTO Bret Taylor said earlier today. Essentially, this would turn the Open Graph into Facebook’s app store, a place for easy monetary transactions.
The single-step application would eliminate the need for SMS device verification, an annoying roadblock users begrudgingly often deal with when making purchases at the moment. The SDK will be released in the near future so app makers can make their products available via Facebook, which of course, drives its Open Graph activity.
Facebook has long had mobile aspirations and the Open Graph is how it will realize them. The Open Graph is Facebook’s app store, and it’s one that isn’t subject to what OS you use – whether you have an iPhone, an Android, a Windows Phone, whatever, you can access and make purchases via the Facebook app library. Yes, at its most basic, this means you’re using an app store within an app.
Now, Facebook’s already bagged users: There are more than 800 million of them, and the Open Graph has performed well from the outset. But Facebook’s doing its very best to make this as appealing as possible to developers. The Pay Dialog is all developers will need to integrate into their own apps, which supports desktop and mobile, supports app-specific currency, and doesn’t required additional permissions since Facebook and the carriers work out these details. That all sounds pretty nice to developers’ ears.
It became pretty clear in Facebook’s S-1 filing that mobile is where the money – and users – are at. It’s the future of Facebook, as well as where it plans on making real money. Monetizing mobile, however, hasn’t hit quite yet, and a simple, user- and developer-friendly mobile payment system would tie all the loose ends together.