Those who use Facebook on their mobile phones have come a step closer to enjoying the same experience as desktop users, with apps now being available directly through mobile browsers.
"The apps are a big part of what makes Facebook so engaging," says Wayne Bischoff, MD Habari Media, Facebook's local sales partner. "Whether it's tracing a family through We're Related, playing Texas HoldEm Poker or tending crops in Farmville, millions of people engage with Facebook apps every day. That experience is now available to anyone with a browser on their mobile phone."
Bischoff expects take-up of mobile apps to be especially rapid in Africa, where many people have no alternative to using their phones. He notes that of South Africa's 4.7 million Facebook users, 3.1 million regularly access it through their mobile phones.
The move is good news for app developers and businesses as well, says Bischoff. "People discover apps through invitations or by seeing their friends' activity. Taking your app mobile means it will be visible in the news feed, so you can not only deepen users' engagement, but also reach an entirely new audience."
Users can now easily find their favourite apps on their mobile phones; and if they interact with a new app on their phones, it will be automatically bookmarked so they can find it again on their desktops. The experience will be the same no matter what device is being used, says Bischoff.
"Any brand that is developing its presence on Facebook wants to create and deepen connections with its fans," says Bischoff. "If they have the budget to develop and promote an app, the availability of the mobile version now means they can reach more people, more easily."
Mobile apps are also a revenue opportunity, notes Bischoff: "Facebook apps are essentially websites," he says. "You can do anything with an app that you can do with a website, including charging fees or selling virtual goods. Users can now buy and spend Facebook Credits from anywhere."
Facebook Platform for Mobile, the underlying infrastructure which makes mobile apps possible, is now available to all developers. All that is needed is to build the app using HTML5 - which means only one version need be created across all platforms - and register a mobile URL through the developer site.