Blogging Inside Social Apps: The Future of Mobile App Discovery on Facebook

We’re at the San Francisco Design center, blogging Inside Network’s third annual Inside Social Apps conference. Founder of Inside Network Justin Smith sat down with Facebook Director of Software Engineering Cory Ondrejka for a fireside chat called “The Future of Mobile App Discovery on Facebook.”

Ondrejka emphasized the value of building HTML5 apps that users can access from any device and how integrating Open Graph will allow users to share their activity without interrupting gameplay.

Ondrejka revealed that half of Facebook’s mobile traffic comes through the mobile website and the other half comes from native applications. He said that the company spent much of 2011 improving its mobile touch site and integrating web technology in its native applications. For example, the iOS and Android apps now pull News Feed stories directly from m.facebook.com so Facebook’s engineers can push design and backend changes without a software update.

“The trend of wanting the web to work really well is something that’s happening,” Ondrejka said. “It’s incumbent on us to write good code, show good examples and make it easy to integrate.”

Although Ondrejka encouraged HTML5 development for cross-platform access, he acknowledged that some apps will require advanced capabilities that are only possible as native experiences. Still, Facebook’s distribution channels function the same for web and native apps.

“The important thing about our platform at this point is that we want all of these to integrate with Open Graph,” he said.

Because the company filed for an initial public offering last week, Ondrejka was unable to discuss possible plans for advertising apps within Facebook’s mobile experiences. He instead focused on the organic channels that are available to mobile developers: Open Graph activity in News Feed and Timeline, app bookmarks and requests.

Facebook apps can now publish continuously to Timeline and Ticker, which Ondrejka said will improve the gameplay experience. The strategy seems to be increase engagement by making games more enjoyable and organic discovery will follow.

“What Open Graph allows you to do is share in this non-interruptive way without saying ‘Hey, player, stop playing to issue a request’ I hope it opens up game design as broad as on other devices,” he said.

Ondrejka cited Pinterest and Washington Post Social Reader as good examples of how mobile apps can utilize Open Graph for discovery.