Monday Apple unleashed Facebook v4.0 on the App Store which supports the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad (finally) using iOS 4.0 and later. But the real big news here is that the social website has also launched its HTML5-based Facebook Platform, aka Project Spartan. As of this writing, the actual mobile sites and Android's Facebook app remain unchanged, but the iOS version has received a dramatic overhaul that allows users to launch HTML5-based apps or those already installed locally on the device.
"We are at the beginning of bringing Facebook Platform apps to mobile," said Facebook's Luke Shepard. "The features we are launching today are still under development. They will evolve as we learn more about building richer social experiences on mobile devices. In addition, we will extend our native support for more mobile platforms such as Android in the near future. We are excited to see what you will build with these features today and look forward to working with you as we improve these features."
To test out the new HTML5 platform, the updated Facebook app was pulled up on an iPod Touch. Monday Storm8 announced that three of its games -- World War, iMobsters and Vampires Live -- was now available for the Facebook Platform. As these games aren't currently installed locally on the device, we decided to test Vampires Live via the Facebook app.
First we pressed the menu button located on the left side of the Facebook app's new toolbar -- this pulled up a long list of options like "favorites" including news feeds and messages, apps and groups. A search field was also present allowing us to seek out Storm8's Vampires Live game. In previous trials with the search field typing The Sims Social, the Facebook app would say that the game isn't available; other entries actually pulled up apps installed on the device or product Facebook pages. According to the company, developers have this option: to either develop an entirely new HTML5-based version, or have the Facebook launch the local app.
"Of the 350 million people who use Facebook from mobile devices every month, roughly half of those users access Facebook through the web and half use native apps," Shepard said. "Social apps are all about interacting with your friends so the best social apps will be on both native iOS and web apps, and we encourage you [the developer] to think about how to reach the total audience of Facebook users by building both."
For Vampires Live, the Facebook app actually launched the HTML5 version within the Facebook app itself. That said, Facebook acts more like a browser, allowing the content and an additional browser-like address field/back button/forward button combo bar to load beneath the new Facebook toolbar. There was also a button to open the HTML5 app within Safari itself. Eventually the game loaded, asked for permissions, and performed as if playing the installed app itself, only within a Facebook-themed container.
Towards the end of Facebook's blog published Monday afternoon, Shepard revealed this website that's best viewed in a mobile browser. The site offers a list of HTML5 apps that's currently available or, in Zynga's case, will launch on Tuesday during a press event taking place in San Francisco. Facebook users can check out Magic Land: Island by Wooga, Social Poker Live and World Race Live by Moblying, World War, iMobsters and Vampires Live by Storm8, Flixster, The Huffington Post, AudioVroom, Gilt Luck by Gilt Groupe, BranchOut, and a demo of Hackbook by Facebook itself in Android's browser and Safari. Zynga's list of games to be unlocked on Tuesday include Words With Friends, Texas Hold'em and FarmVille Express.
Monday Shepard said that the company is also extending Facebook Credits to support mobile web apps. "The same policies for Apps on Facebook apply to mobile web apps, including the requirement to use Facebook Credits as their exclusive payment mechanism," he said. "Facebook Credits are not allowed in iOS apps or mobile web apps that are running within a Facebook iOS app."
To read the entire developers blog, head here.