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Facebook Increases Mobile Users 50% Since April

The social network is ramping its mobile presence to boost adoption in countries where smartphones are the main way to access the web.

Facebook today has about 150 million mobile users, up 50% from the 100 million mobile users it boasted in April, and the social networking giant plans to pump up the volume on its smartphone initiatives to further boost adoption in this rapidly growing segment.

"We want to turn this whole mobile platform into a Facebook. Mobile is fast becoming our growth lever," Eric Tseng said in a presentation at VentureBeat's MobileBeat 2010 conference in San Francisco. "As we begin to continue to expand, we're starting to go into geographies where phones are the predominant way you access the web. Mobile is a way we can get users to be aware of and engage with social services."

In May, Facebook launched 0.facebook.com, a mobile site that includes all the key features of Facebook but is optimized for speed. Initially available through more than 50 mobile operators in 45 countries, today Facebook has agreements with 66 mobile operators in 56 countries, Tseng told attendees.

Recently the company created a mobile-only capability that eliminates the need for a computer. Previously, new users needed a PC to create their account.

"We were blocking ourselves from getting millions of new users in countries like India," said Tseng.

Another path to expanded mobile adoption involves making it easier for users to locate apps, he said. Over the next few months the company will hone in on a platform strategy that developers can use to distribute their mobile applications, Tseng said at MobileBeat. The company also plans to update the application programming interfaces (APIs) for its Android and iPhone apps, he said.

"Inevitably, app stores will become more social. As we get more apps, that's going to be great. But the average user isn't going to go through thousands of apps on their phone," said Tseng, who was part of Google's Android development team before joining Facebook earlier this year.

People who interact with Facebook on their mobile devices are more engaged with the site than those who connect via PC, according to Facebook. In fact, they are twice as active than non-mobile users, Facebook said.

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