Following a leak Wednesday about a possible upcoming photo-sharing app for Facebook, TechCrunch claims that Facebook's next big endeavor, internally known as "Project Spartan," will establish a new mobile web app platform that could help the social networking giant gain independence from Apple's App Store.
Unnamed sources told TechCrunch that Facebook's new platform will be HTML5-based and will be compatible only with Apple's mobile Safari browser (at first). This means that when the platform launches, its entire customer base will be iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users.
"As of right now, there are believed to be 80 or so outside developers working with Facebook on Project Spartan," writes TechCrunch, listing FarmVille developer Zynga among the partners. "These teams are working on apps for the platform that range from games to news-reading apps."
If the sources are correct, Facebook's platform will sidestep Apple's App Store and create a mobile marketplace all its own. Users will also be able to download and access apps directly from Facebook's platform.
"Forget the buggy Facebook app," Gizmodo says of the project. "iPhone owners could use a mobile version of Facebook that is lean, mean and outside the reach of Apple's control. [...] Here's something to think about if this rumor pans out. Adobe Flash is gone, Apple is gone and everything will be channeled through Facebook. Kinda scary, huh?"
Looking toward Facebook's financial goals, Techland writes, "If [Facebook] can get enough people using an iOS-optimized website, it can use that to sell them stuff too. It can sell apps that work within its web platform (as opposed to apps that have to approved by Apple first)."
Some, however, think Facebook might not be headed in the right direction. Gigaom, for example, writes,
Farmville, and many other social games that use in-game currency to make most of their money, have already found a profitable route to mobile thanks to Apple’s App Store. A Facebook offering might immediately appeal to some of these developers [...], but to prove a viable alternative in the long run, Facebook will have to either offer a better value proposition to devs (by giving them a bigger cut) or show that developers can reach more users than they do with native offerings. [...] For a store that resides entirely on the web, that’s a tall order, because it means convincing mobile users to shift their idea of what constitutes mobile software once again. It’s hard to understate how different it is to ask mobile users to pay for an application, versus asking them to pay for access to what basically amounts to a website.
The platform will launch "in the next few weeks," according to TechCrunch.