Facebook Poaches a Head of Mobile Developer Relations From Sencha

Facebook just hired a new head of mobile developer relations away from Sencha, which provides tools for developers to create web and mobile apps with HTML5 and Javascript.

James Pearce, who was a chief technology officer at dotMobi, will join the company to cultivate relationships with mobile developers and push its new viral channels for mobile apps. Facebook recently rolled out new abilities for mobile developers to take advantage of the news feed, requests and bookmarks to promote native and HTML5-based mobile apps. But many longtime social game developers like Crowdstar have launched mobile games with light or non-existent ties to the Facebook platform as they’ve found that the social network hasn’t really been necessary to drive millions of downloads or active users for mobile games.

Pearce wrote in his personal blog:

Friday is my last day at Sencha.

It’s been a great company to work for, with smart people, valuable products and a vibrant community. It’s not too much to say we’ve really led this year’s growth of interest in mobile web applications, HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

But for me, a new challenge. As of Monday, I’ll be Head of Mobile Developer Relations at Facebook.

Not much to say right now – I have a six-week bootcamp to get through – but it’s probably sufficient to say the company also has a few interesting ambitions in mobile.

So, thank you Sencha, for a brilliant experience. And hello Facebook: let’s see what we can do.

Next year, will be an important one for Facebook to show that it’s vital for mobile developers in a world where the two predominant smartphone operating systems come from a direct competitor, Google, and an on-and-off partner, Apple.

With Zynga on track to raise around $1 billion in an initial public offering in two weeks, there is no doubt that Facebook is a powerful platform with 850 million monthly active users. However, after the company cut back on virality last year and started taking a 30 percent revenue share of all transactions on its platform through Credits, growth has slowed noticeably for companies that are heavily or solely dependent on the platform.

As a result, many developers have switched to the iOS and Android platforms where rapid adoption of smartphones is creating more growth opportunities.

Virality is not as critical to acquiring users on iOS and Android because both app stores emphasize rankings instead of sharing to promote apps. Many of the most successful titles that have been ported over from Facebook to iOS have a very light or non-existent integration with the Facebook platform.

Facebook’s launch of new viral channels for mobile apps could change all of this, but it’s too early to tell. With them, developers can have users send requests to their friends to join mobile apps or share apps through the news feed.

We’re seeing mixed results so far. Longtime Facebook developer SNAP Interactive said its app AreYouInterested.com jumped into the top 5 grossing iOS social networking apps in the U.S. (from the top 10) because of the new viral mobile channels.

It said that mobile daily log-ins are now up by 70 percent for the native iPhone app and 50 percent for the mobile website after the Facebook mobile platform launch. But it conspicuously didn’t say how large a base it was growing from. Our app tracking service AppData shows that the app has 600,000 daily active users and the company says that mobile is about 10 percent of daily traffic. That implies that the mobile apps have 60,000 daily users, which isn’t bad at all.

At the same time though, the showcase of HTML5-based mobile games that Facebook released as part of its platform launch hasn’t added any new titles. Plus, early traffic to some of those apps wasn’t that strong. One of them seems to be doing better though. Moblyng’s Social Poker Live is now showing about 9,000 daily active users.