Facebook Updates Mobile Platform with Location APIs, Single Sign-On, and Deals

Facebook is launching a new set of features on its mobile platform, which will allow application developers access to information such as a user’s location, apps to use Single Sign-on, and Places to run Deals promotions. Mobile will now have Single Sign-on, so you can log in once and click a button to instantly log in later, which should reduce login friction. The Places Write API has been whitelist only, but today the write API is being opened up to all developers.

Facebook is seeking to allow developers to build in a social environment no matter what phone they’re building on, whether that’s RIM, Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, or the mobile web. The company recently reached the milestone of 200 million people actively using Facebook mobile products across all platforms.

Single Sign-On

The first major development is Single Sign-on. “No one enjoys logging in”, says Erick Tseng, Facebook’s Head of Mobile Products. “Retrieving a lost password has also been very difficult on a phone.”  Single Sign-on removes the need to ever type in a username or password again.

Apps which integrate with Facebook on iPhone and Android will query the Facebook for iPhone or Facebook for Android app to check to make sure a user is signed in. If they are, users simply need to click “login” in the app to access it. If they are logged out of Facebook via their phone’s native app, they’ll be prompted to log in to Facebook, but won’t be making an app-specific Facebook login. Once logged in, users will see the permissions screen if they haven’t previously allowed the app access to their different data categories, and then begin their app experience.

“Most users don’t log out of Facebook on their iPhone or Android. Single Sign-on saves you time doing the things you have to do, so you can spend more time doing things you want to do.”

Single Sign-on uses the exact same permissions system that a half million apps use on Facebook today.


A big barrier to trying a Groupon is not wanting to sign-in or sign-up. Now users can quickly sign-in through Facebook and instantly buy a Groupon.


Zynga Poker will debut on the Android platform. Every day the app has 6 million users. To log in, users simply need to click “Tap to login through Facebook”, allow the permissions, and they’re logged in. “Zynga wants to be anywhere and everywhere” says their GM of Mobile Product.

Other Launch Partners

Loopt, Scvngr, Yelp, Flixster, and Booyah! are also launch partners for the updated mobile platform.

Location APIs

“Stuff fundamentally changes when we add new data to the graph, it allows developers to do things they couldn’t do before. Mobile doesn’t have to just be a shadow of the desktop. Location isn’t just a node in the graph, but information that could be part of all content.”

Facebook is opening up the Read API, the Write API, and the Search API , allowing developers to:

  • Read where your friends are
  • Write and publish check-ins
  • Search for relevant Places

Previously, if a user checked in through Yelp, it could use stream.publish to send the check-in to the news feed.  “But its not something that will pop out at you if you’re looking for location stories” says Facebook’s Dave Fetterman.

Now users will be able to see check-ins from all services on the Places check-ins feed. Clicking one of these check-ins will open the Places page on the service that published the check-in, such as a Yelp venue page.

“If you don’t have a Places data set, the Search API will come to the rescue.” It will show developers the Places around a user, ranked by their relevance to the user. This allows developers of all sizes to create mobile social local applications.”


Users can use Single Sign-on to instantly create an account on the Loopt app. When users check-in on Loopt, it checks them in on Facebook as well. “Rather than looking at reviews, people want to see where their friends are”, says Sam Altman, CEO of Loopt.


What’s been missing is the ability for the Places I check in to communicate back to me. These businesses will now be able to push Deals out to those who’ve connected to them. Users will be able to see what local Places are offering Deals, like a free beer.

To use the local Deals which are available, users click on the Deal, see what it is, check in, claim the deal, and show the confirmation screen to the clerk to get their reward. Businesses can reward loyalty with Deals. Users get a digital card which shows punch marks as they approach a reward, such as a free sandwich after buying ten.

Deals are available for multiple people, meaning you can look for Deals which reward you for tagging three friends at the Place.

Businesses can let users check in to their Places and opt to donate money to a specific charity.

The first 10,000 users to come to a Gap store will get a free pair of jeans, the Alamo Drafthouse Theater will be giving away Facebook pint glasses, and The North Face will donate $1 to charity for each check-in to a North Face store or a national park.  Those staying at the Palms hotel will get their third night free. The Golden State Warriors basketball team is giving away access to a VIP event to those who check-in at the game, showing that rewards can be experiences as well as products.

The Deals platform will be self-serve, and will launch with 22 partners. Admins of 20,000 more small businesses will now see a prompt on their Facebook Page explaining that they have been admitted to the deals beta. Both of these sets of companies will be offered stickers and signage to promote Deals, as well as thoughts and guidance on how to train the employees to redeem Deals.

It will be up to vendors whether they want to strictly enforce Deals, such as requiring the friends a user tags for a “tag three friends for a free appetizer” Deal to be physically present when the Deal is redeemed. The Deal confirmation screen will also show a unique user and check-in ID, which vendors can keep track of to allow for Deals which require multiple check-ins or purchases over time. Users can only check-in for rewards once a day.

If users have trouble redeeming a Deal, they’ll be able to click a “Report Problem” link problem link, notifying Facebook so it can get in touch with the business and sort out the problem.

These measures should keep Deals from being easily defrauded, or causing ill will. Eventually, Deal will open up to all businesses worldwide.


“You can rethink any product area to be social, have it be more engaging, have it grow virally, and remake whole industries” says Zuckerberg.


What about privacy and security around sharing location?

Tseng: “No different than the original Places launch. There’s a privacy console, allowing users to turn off location participation.”

Zuckerberg: “Single Sign-On only allows access to public information. Apps will still have to ask permission for access to location information.”

The iPad has been out for a while, when will there be a Facebook for iPad app?

Zuckerberg: “The iPad is not a mobile device, next question.”

How do you see mobile use patterns changing?

Tseng: “Sign on is one of the biggest problems for mobile developers today”

Zuckerberg: “We see this as similar to what YouTube did for video. After making video sharing easy, it took off. We think this will happen in mobile environments (thanks to Single Sign-on).  What we think is going to happen now is that developers will integrate it, conversions will go up, more users will be using the apps in a social way.”

How does Facebook make money off of Deals?

Zuckerberg: “We don’t get paid off of the Deals. For us, it’s the ability to offer a great product to people who use it. Businesses could advertise their Deals in the same way they could advertise other things for years.”

When will the Android app and Deals launch?

Tseng: The Android app should be available now. Deals will launch in the US first, and later be rolled out worldwide.

How will Single Sign-On work with mobile browsers?

Tseng: We’re working on Single Sign-On for mobile browsers, its something on the roadmap which we’re really excited about.

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