Will Facebook Succeed Where Flash Failed? - InformationWeek
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Will Facebook Succeed Where Flash Failed?

Facebook launches a quest to be a cross-platform development tool and build bridges among its rivals' vertically integrated ecosystems. Here's how its position differs from Flash.

a matter of personal preference. They also invited extra work by integrating Facebook APIs that were subsequently changed.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook received a lot of feedback from users who didn't want to use Facebook Login and said his company no longer wants to "move fast and break things." Henceforth, it will focus on keeping its backend services stable and functioning. (Google had a similar epiphany about the downside of breakneck development in 2011 when it delayed Android 3.0 to focus on code quality.)

Facebook's pitch to developers contains some tough love: The company is adding anonymous login as a Facebook Login option to prevent privacy-conscious users from rejecting an app outright. While developers may fret that this deprives them of access to some users' email and other data, they may find that foregoing this information on occasion leads to better app adoption in the long run. Along similar lines, Facebook is making app permissions more granular. Having enticed 1.25 billion people to join its network, Facebook now has to focus on keeping their trust.

With such a broad audience -- many of them users of multiple operating systems and devices -- developers should welcome Facebook's cross-platform bid. It's doubtful Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft will, however. Each of these companies would like to provide cloud services to developers and to have access to the data passing through their apps. Each already provides services for mobile developers, and some (Google Play Services, for example) have already embraced a cross-platform approach.

Cross-platform development in the application layer entails some compromises, and it may limit implementation of native platform features, but it's the future in the data layer where Facebook plays.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 11:16:40 PM
Re: Facebook platform compared to Flash
I am with you, guys. The key for Facebook success is its strength in API area. Can it offer really cross-platform development environment? Can it offer easy-to-use API? Maybe RESTful API or web service based on SOA is of better choice in this battle. This battle is not fully comparable to the ban-out of Flash by Apple.
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2014 | 2:46:58 PM
Re: Facebook platform compared to Flash
Right David, I thought the same. I can imagine discussion inside Apple of how to block this, but that horse has left the barn. No way for Apple, or Google or Microsoft for that matter, to block Facebook without users revolting. This will be fun to watch.
User Rank: Strategist
5/2/2014 | 7:46:39 AM
Cross platform hard to do well
I think Flash proves that cross platform is hard to do. You end up with either spending a lot of developement trying to make it work well individually on a platform. Or compromise a solution for every platform. You see this with browsers, software applications and even issues between a app on one mobile platform vs another.  While I don't agree with the Apple phylosophy of a closed garden today when so many don't adopt just one branding or operating system. Trying to cover all the bases is just as wrong. For example, while Windows OS still dominates the PC market. Its mobile Windows OS barely registers in users and the tablets are not much better. So although Microsoft is trying to make a lot of platforms work together. You have to have products that users want to own to make that happen. Apple on the other hand has a popular smartphone, tablet and Mac lineup that many have adapted as a complete platform complementing each other. Google has also done this to some extent. Facebook most likely will do more web ased apps which will blur the lines of platforms more easily.  But given the recent stats which show most people access the web through apps on their smartphones and tablets vs a web browser. Might indicate that the web browser is becoming irrelavent. Google has placed a lot of emphasis on web based apps in Chrome and Chrome OS. But is this really where things are going?
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/1/2014 | 3:08:41 PM
Re: Mood at F8?
I'd say the developers were enthusiastic about Facebook's renewed statement of commitment. Zuckerberg end announced next year's F8, to reassure developers that Facebook is serious. Now keep in mind that Facebook's announcements were aimed to make Facebook development tech more appealing for people making apps. Anonymous login isn't about Facebook giving up on personal information; it's about helping people trust apps with FB Login enough to try them (so they can then later provide personal information).

If Facebook can translate its vast reach into must-have services, it will redefine what it means to be cross-platform. Yesterday's platforms didn't require a data layer. Apple's policies were aimed at protecting paid app sales. Tomorrow's platforms will rely much more heavily on a data layer, from Facebook or someone else, because advertising, engagement, and other marketing data will become so much more important to make free apps profitable.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/1/2014 | 2:38:24 PM
Facebook heightens the contrast with Apple, Google
You can't begin at a better point for developers than by stabilizing the API. Facebook isn't coming from a particular technology school as it builds out user engagement and interaction features, and it's got little to lose by sharing those features with others. It continues to use an open approach to draw a contrast between itself and Apple, Google and Microsoft. Its Open Compute hardware design and open data center specs lead the way.
User Rank: Author
5/1/2014 | 2:05:06 PM
Mood at F8?
Tom can you share what the developer mood was like at F8? Was the crowd receptive to this Facebook platform push or skeptical?
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
5/1/2014 | 9:59:08 AM
Facebook platform compared to Flash
I never would have thought of Flash as a point of comparison, but it's an interesting one. One advantage of the nature of the Facebook platform as a data/API framework is that Apple and others with platforms to protect can't easily lock it out the way Apple banned Flash from its mobile devices. Facebook's bigger challenge will be winning developer mindshare, proving that its APIs are valuable to the point of being indispensible for web and mobile development.
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