Feeds

Facebook ditches mobile HTML with native Android app

New version 'twice as fast' as lousy old one

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Updated Four months after Facebook infamously switched its iOS mobile app from an HTML-based app to a native one, the social network has followed suit with a native app for Android, completing its transition away from web-based mobile development.

"Facebook for Android 2.0 is twice as fast when looking at photos and opening your Timeline and noticeably quicker to launch," the company said in a press release on Thursday.

Those statements echo Facebook's description of its reworked iOS app, released in August, which was also billed as "twice as fast" as the previous version.

In an interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg attributed the company's mobile app performance gains to its move away from web technologies.

"When I'm introspective about the last few years, I think the biggest mistake that we made as a company is betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native. Because it just wasn't there," the hoodie-clad exec said.

Zuck's comments riled developers across the web, many of whom leapt to the defense of HTML5 and so-called hybrid mobile apps. Perhaps the problem wasn't web technologies, they said, but Facebook's ability to execute using them – a point conceded by at least one Facebook engineering manager.

"Right now Facebook moves fastest by writing native code," that unnamed manager told Reg contributor Matt Asay. "Eventually if HTML5 lets us move faster you could expect to see us move back to it. We are going to use whatever tech stack lets us do high-quality work at a fast pace."

Regardless of whether technology or Facebook's engineering team is to blame, however, it seems clear that the social network's Android app has been in sore need of an overhaul.

Users have been deeply divided over the current version. As of Thursday afternoon, it had earned 2,614,433 five-star ratings on the Google Play store, but 1,102,696 users had given it just one star.

Among the one-star ratings posted in recent days, user comments include, "Takes forever to load," "This app is the slowest and worst app in the play store," and "If I could give negative stars I would."

Comments like those have troubled Facebook shareholders, who worry that Zuck & Co. have been too slow to develop a strong mobile strategy. In a study released by mobile developer tools company Appcelerator on Thursday, 66 per cent of developers surveyed thought it was "likely to very likely" that a mobile-first social startup could disrupt Facebook's dominance in the space.

Little wonder that Zuckerberg spent much of Facebook's most recent financial earnings call talking up the company's mobile plans. "I want to dispel this myth that Facebook can't make money on mobile," he said. "This may have seemed true earlier this year because we hadn't started trying yet."

The release of a native app for Android seems to indicate the company is now trying, at least a little bit. Company reps say the updated app, version 2.0, will be available from the Google Play store beginning late Thursday. ®

Update

For more technically-minded readers, Facebook engineer Frank Qixing Du has posted a detailed description of how the company optimized its new, all-native app for better performance on Android.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.