Early Traffic Results for HTML5 Part of Facebook’s Mobile Platform Seem Tepid


By Kim-Mai Cutler Comment

A week after Facebook’s launch of viral channels for third-party mobile apps, the amount of traffic the social network is driving to individual HTML5-based titles seems to be in the low thousands of unique users.

We looked at a handful of the apps that appeared on the company’s HTML5 mobile app showcase via AppData. Moblyng’s Word Racer Live and Social Poker Live each show 1,000 monthly active users or lower.

To be fair, it’s only been one week and this is clearly a work in progress. Secondly, users have to go at least two clicks into the app after opening it to reach a game they’ve bookmarked, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see users drop off after several friction points. Thirdly, HTML5 still isn’t quite there yet. Even the better-known apps like Zynga’s Words With Friends had issues with latency and responsiveness when we tested them out last week.

We looked at the traffic sent to Moblyng’s Social Poker Live and Word Racer Live. It’s harder to pick apart HTML5 versus native traffic for other launch partners like Zynga and Storm8, since active usage data is consolidated into a single number for native and HTML5-based versions of the same title. Bigger developers like Zynga would probably see more referrals to their HTML5 titles because they already have such a large existing user base.

Moblyng is a gaming company that has staked its future on HTML5 and has raised at least $17.9 million to date in three venture-backed rounds plus an investment of undisclosed size from Motorola Mobility.

“Facebook can unify fragmented mobile platforms around the browser,” Moblyng chief executive Stewart Putney told us last week when the platform launched. “We’ve been completely focused on this since the spring.”

HTML5 is a key part of Facebook’s big play into supporting an ecosystem of mobile developers. However, because Facebook doesn’t own lower parts of the mobile stack like a phone or an operating system, its options are somewhat limited despite its more than 800 million active users.

Credits, for example, can’t work with native apps on iOS since Apple bans other payment methods on its platform.

Several competing blogs suggested last week that Facebook “caved” to Apple in limiting use of Credits to web-based apps.¬†However, it’s frankly hard to see a company like Apple — with its single-minded focus on user experience and control of all levels of the mobile stack — allowing multiple payment mechanisms on its own platform. Making consumers choose between Apple’s in-app payments and Facebook Credits in native apps would be a subpar user experience. If there were concessions made to Facebook, it might be in affiliate fees for driving downloads or additional in-app purchases. Facebook didn’t comment on this.

It’s also hard to see arch-rival Google giving Facebook a window on Android, unless Facebook subverts the “openness” of Android by forking the platform. That would be akin to what Amazon has done with its new Android appstore and Android-based Kindle Fire.

Because of issues in extending its reach on iOS and Android, Facebook is pursuing HTML5 as a way to help developers easily deploy a single app that works across multiple devices and operating systems. However, the early batch of HTML5 apps from last week’s launch suggest the company has a ways to go.