Facebook will succeed on mobile, just not with the Facebook app.

Social media is to Facebook what online search is to Google: just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding this makes it a lot easier to see how Facebook, despite it’s clunky mobile app, can actually end up dominating the mobile environment.

Google started as just a search engine and soon enough Sergey Brin and Larry Page realized the potential of adding advertising to the website. But what made Google’s advertising platform so big and profitable was the strategy to make Internet users never leave Google’s umbrella, far beyond search. It’s the combination of the search engine with Ad Words / Ad Sense, and Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Drive, Blogger, Apps for Businesses, Maps, Chrome, and a lot more. Google has a wide catalog of products and services to cover the needs of every kind of Internet user, from those wanting to watch cat videos to developers trying to create the next big thing or business trying to earn millions. And Google makes money from all of them.

That’s exactly what Facebook is trying to do in mobile. They know how difficult it is to make more people see more ads on the Facebook app, so instead of bringing users to the Facebook app they are bringing Facebook to everywhere else in your phone, like Instagram and Whatsapp. But they are also bringing Facebook to app developers to make it easy to create the next big thing (with Parse or Facebook Login) and to businesses trying to ear millions (with App Ads and Payment Methods). Instead of getting the revenues of just running ads on the Facebook app, they are after the revenues of developing, promoting and monetizing any app. Add to all that (and all the data coming from there) Facebook’s own advertising platform, and you have a company with the same power and size than Google.

You can read a much deeper analysis of Facebook’s strategy and plans for the next decade in Fast Company’s article Facebook’s Plan To Own Your Phone.


My favourite Android apps (III)

twitter-androidI just realized that last Fall I forgot to write my annual list of favourite apps. I’m still happy with Android, although I look forward to try UbuntuOS and FirefoxOS in the near future. Meanwhile my list of installed apps hasn’t changed much, even though I had to change my terminal in early 2012 because of the international broadband differences (my Motorola Milestone from Spain didn’t work with my Canadian provider, so I got a good deal on a Samsung Galaxy Ace). If my list of installed apps hasn’t changed much it’s obvious that my list of favourite apps is also pretty much the same. Granted, my current phone is not a high-end device, but I haven’t heard about any app that I was really missing about except for the fact that I can’t run Firefox for Android.

One last thing before the actual list: I am still avoiding to pay for any app, since I can always find a free one to do pretty much the same. The only exception that I have had to make is Whatsapp, since my free first year of use is over and I couldn’t give it up, as I explain below.

1- Twitter. Within the year and a half since my last apps review, Twitter for Android has grown up a lot and it is now my default Twitter app. It’s clean, intuitive and easy; and its integration with Android is perfect (meaning that you get notifications when things actually just happened, which doesn’t happen with Hootsuite). It could still be better with better access to Twitter Lists and private messages, and with a URL shortener with stats.

2- Foursquare. After Twitter and the phone-related apps, Foursquare is still the app that I use the most. I still get excited about getting a new mayorship or badge, even though it means sharing my location with hundreds of people who don’t care about it. Moreover, since I am in North America I have enjoyed several perks such as free breakfast at hotels or free tours at beer breweries, so I am a total addict.

3- Whatsapp. Last time I put Skype on this list, but I have since discovered that Whatsapp is more convenient. Skype has become more of a “Skype date” tool for me, for which I prefer the laptop; while Whatsapp is now the best way to keep in touch with my friends in Spain. It allows a very spontaneous and constant conversation while still being able to share videos and pictures. Also, the Groups feature is what is keeping us together now that we are all spread around the globe.

4- MapFactor Navigator. It has taken me years (literally) but I have finally found a free GPS+Navigator app that works without data connection. Navigator is not as fast or as good-looking as Google Maps, but it’s definitely the best option to travel to a different country (GMaps would cost you a billion in roaming) or to use locally when you discover how ridiculously expensive mobile rates are in Canada. Plus MapFactor Navigator uses OpenStreetMaps, and I am a big fun of open-source projects. It also has a paid version that uses Tom Tom maps.

5- Hootsuite. Although it’s starting to drive me nuts, I still think Hootsuite for Android is the king of apps when it comes to manage several social media profiles in different platforms from your phone. Plus the addition of the “AutoSchedule” function makes my life (and my clients’ lifes) way easier when I have some free time to read a bunch of articles and then I want to share some of them without saturating my feeds. disclaimer: I have been using Hootsuite in my laptop for personal and professional purposes for a while, and the fact that it’s all synchronized makes it harder to change.

6- Photoshop Express. Considering how expensive Adobe software normally is I still can’t believe this is free, but what really surprises me is that not that many Android users know about it. I really like how easy it makes it to improve a picture as if you actually had Photoshop in your phone. The only complain I have is that they haven’t change it at all in almost three years, and it could use some more funky filters and frames.

7- Zite. This has quickly become one of my favourites, as I find it great to find new contents outside of my own bubble (the people I decided to follow on social media, the blogs and media I keep on Google Reader, the alerts in Google and Topsy that I created…). While Reddit does pretty much the same I believe the success of Zite resides on its very clean layout, as it looks just like the app from a magazine. I only wish it would work in Spanish too.

8- Cyanogen. Although it’s not an app, I think CyanogenMod deserves some recognition here. When I first got my new phone it came with a Samsung-baked Android rom that really disappointed me. I expected much more from the only company able to kick Apple’s ass in the mobile market these days, so it only took me a few weeks to decide to give up and change to Cyanogen.

Five challenges for Firefox OS

Image from http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefoxos/

I’m pretty excited about Firefox OS. I believe in open-source projects, plus Mozilla has a good record on creating awesome software and keep it open and free. And I think they are an example on following those standards that make life easier for developers and designers. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m really happy with Android (specially since I moved away from manufacturer’s versions of Android and started using custom ROMs), but Google’s shadow is quite big and still growing… and I really hate their contacts management system!

I’m also looking forward to play with Ubuntu for Android, but I have the feeling Firefox OS is a very different concept: while Canonical is trying to give a big and interesting step on personal computing with a phone able to run a whole PC at the same time, it seems that Mozilla is putting its money on simplicity. Which sounds much better when they tell you that the smartphones running Firefox OS will cost around $100. That means you can get up to six fully functional phones at the price of an iPhone or a high-end Android device.

But even though I love the concept (open-source, free, simple, based on standards… how not to?) I think there are a few challenges they have to overcome if they want to get a piece of the cake in the big markets other than the obvious (being user-friendly, having a long battery life and a good touch screen response, or simply being fast):

  1. Migration. High in the “to-do” lists they should have the creation of apps to migrate your contacts and text messages from Android and iOS (although I don’t really see many fanboys changing to FirefoxOS in the short-term…). The easier it is to move to the new phone the more attractive it becomes.
  2. Top apps. Who is going to get a smart phone that doesn’t have Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and AngryBirds? They just have to integrate those popular apps that we just can’t live without anymore, or rather get those companies to develop those apps (which shouldn’t be that hard, being the whole system standard HTML5).
  3. Maps/Navigation. By definition they should go with open-source projects, even if that means putting some work to develop their own apps or help the existing projects. That doesn’t mean they have to block a possible GoogleMaps app, just make sure they have fully working open alternatives.
  4. Security. Mozilla has announced that Firefox OS’ app store will be open for anybody who wants to share/sell an app. Although I think that’s way to go (I don’t like anyone telling me what can I install or not on my computer) I see the risks of it. So the same way they have to make sure Firefox doesn’t have any security breaks that allow hackers to break into your computer and potentially access your private stuff or steal your money, Firefox OS should be a bunker unless you open the door on your own.
  5. Devices. The main reason of Android’s popularity is that it works in many different devices, while iOS is meant to be used only in iPhone. Firefox OS should be easy to install in any device (in a similar way you can install a custom Android ROM from the recovery mode), and able to run smoothly in even the lower-end smart phones.