Facebook Addresses Mobile Future At Crunchup

By Justin Lafferty 

As investors question whether or not Facebook can make money off the millions who access the social network via mobile devices, the company’s stock has plummeted. At Friday’s TechCrunch Facebook Ecosystem Crunchup at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, Calif., Facebook executives explained how the site has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to creating a richer experience on smartphones. They also detailed why a Facebook phone isn’t in the works.

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s vice president of engineering, noted that each day, people access the site from more than 7,000 different kinds of phones — namely iPhones, BlackBerries, and Android devices. Schroepfer said Facebook is committed to enhancing the experience on all of those devices instead of spending time developing its own phone (as has been constantly rumored). The company is trying to focus more on breadth, Schroepfer told conference attendees:

Our goal is simple: it’s to get as many people as possible on Facebook … We’re working with as many different partners as we can. We just kind of want to be as well-integrated into these platforms as possible.

Peter Deng (pictured above), Facebook’s director of product management, talked exclusively about mobile. He pointed out that it took 85 years for landline phones to reach 100 million people, but it took cell phones just 34 years to reach 6 billion people. Deng noted that many people are basically tied to their mobile devices, citing that one in four don’t know their own number and that 54 percent admit to using their phones in bed and 39 percent copped to taking the phone into the bathroom. This kind of reliance on mobile is why Facebook is so persistent about creating a full experience on that platform. Deng said that each department within Facebook is focused on mobile.

Deng added that as time goes on, Facebook will integrate more and more GPS features and push notifications. Thanks to Facebook Camera and the pending purchase of Instagram (which Facebook reps were mum about at Crunchup), the company is making headway in the mobile photo department. Photography is a key part of Facebook’s mobile outlook going forward. Deng noted that while videos or a perfect status update might be intimidating for novice users, anyone with a smartphone can take a picture and share that with friends:

Facebook is inherently a storytelling platform. The real value is when you have these pictures and you share them with people. The magic of photos doesn’t begin when you snap the photos — it begins when you share them. That’s why we built Camera.

Other takeaways from the Facebook Ecosystem Crunchup:

  • In the past 30 days, more than 230 million people played games on Facebook’s desktop site.
  • In the past 30 days, Facebook drove people to the app store and Google Play about 150 million times.
  • Eight of the 10 top grossing iPhone apps are integrated with Facebook.
  • Since January, more than 7,000 timeline apps have launched.
  • Facebook Director of Developer Products Mark Purdy: “What we’ve done in mobile is we’ve tried to become an effective way for mobile developers to drive traffic to app stores and make the Facebook experience richer. News feed has become a real place where you can find out anything that’s going on around you.”
  • Zynga VP of Product Development Sean Kelly said that there’s a TV show in the works inspired by Draw Something. He also believes that the company will make back the money it took to acquire OMGPOP, which developed Draw Something.
  • Deng announced that Facebook is working on updates to Messenger and Camera, to be launched soon.
  • 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each day.
  • Schroepfer on Facebook’s brain drain: “It’s a defining trait of Silicon Valley that people leave jobs … One of the things that makes this place great is that people define their identity in the valley and not in a certain place … We’re very fortunate to have people from Google and Yahoo and Netflix. They get to teach us what worked well and what didn’t work well. We’ve been growing.”

Readers: What do you want to see more of on Facebook’s mobile platform?