Dodging the Apple App Store seems to be in fashion these days, as Financial Times illustrated earlier this month with its launch of a web-based app for the iPhone and iPad, but, with no disrespect to FT, it’s bigger news when Facebook climbs aboard the train.
TechCrunch broke the news about Project Spartan, which it described as the social network’s initiative to launch a new, HTML5-based, mobile platform that will work over mobile Safari, targeting the iPhone and iPad while bypassing the App Store.
Roughly 80 outside developers are currently working with Facebook on Project Spartan — including game creator Zynga and news site The Huffington Post — with the aim of having apps ready for the platform’s official launch in a few weeks.
Facebook is also in the process of tweaking Credits in an attempt to mirror the easy payment system boasted by the App Store.
MG Siegler, author of the TechCrunch post, described Project Spartan in action:
Imagine loading up the mobile Web version of Facebook and finding a drop-down for a new type of app. Clicking on one of the apps loads it (from whatever server it’s on, depending on the app-maker), and immediately, a Facebook wrapper is brought in to surround the app. This wrapper will give the app some basic Facebook functionality, as well as the ability to use key Facebook elements — like Credits.
ReadWriteWeb pointed out that despite the advantage of a user base of nearly 700 million, Facebook has no experience as a provider of mobile apps, and the apps are still reliant on the devices produced by, in this case, Apple.
The guess here: Project Spartan will carve out enough of a niche to validate its existence, but it won’t be an “App Store killer.” What do you think, readers?