It’s the fastest growing participation sport: speculating on Facebook’s post-IPO value and trajectory. In this sport we’re all armchair pundits, backseat drivers and unquestioned experts on how to monetize this pervasive social platform, whose long-term value is under such close scrutiny.
Now Mark Zuckerberg himself has spoken on the subject. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt yesterday, he described Facebook’s drop in share price as “disappointing”, and was sharply critical of some of the mistakes they’ve made in mobile over the last two years, lamenting that their rapid growth into mobile has not been matched with monetization.
Zuckerberg makes special mention of Facebook’s tactical error in HTML5. The original sin was to build native apps which – to those in the know – were little more than wrappers, pulling in content from the mobile web. There was a performance lag with this approach, and it’s only recently that Facebook have gone completely native, ensuring their hugely popular mobile apps run at warp speed. Without doubt, if you’re going to build native apps you should build native apps. The benefits of building in cross-platform HTML5 are legion, but only when you’re all in. The hybrid approach doesn’t cut it for anyone.
Facebook has now put this in order, offering excellent native apps, and a superb HTML5 mobile web experience at facebook.com. This is the glue that holds the Facebook experience together across devices and platforms.
Facebook is clear that HTML5 is the future for mobile, and that an effective payments infrastructure is critical both for developers and for Facebook themselves. As they continue to drive browser technologies and standards, Facebook should be considered the single most powerful advocate of HTML5.
There is much else in Facebook’s world that’s seriously encouraging. Reasons to be cheerful:
Part 1: Uniquely positioned to sell. The secret to successful advertising on mobile devices is still to be uncovered. Selling on mobile is already well established. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the means to monetization is to ask users to buy things, and where better than on Facebook? The social network has 500 million mobile users, browsing for prolonged periods at a time, and is harnessing sophisticated knowledge about their user’s tastes and habits. This is fertile selling ground indeed.
Part 2: App discovery. Facebook is increasingly the place for app and content discovery. Their App Centre tool, allied to the development of open graph, which opens up content to the social graph, combine to make Facebook a powerhouse in content discovery, be that for native apps, HTML5 apps or any other form of paid content.
Part 3: Plugged into mobile payments. Mark Zuckerberg has always enjoyed referring to “frictionless sharing”. Facebook’s mobile payments partnership with Bango delivers “frictionless payment” – A monetization strategy like no other. Bango now powers Facebook purchases on the mobile web, and is already launched in the key markets of USA, Germany and UK. Bango has built a pervasive payments presence across the mobile web, delivering a massively smooth payment experience and unrivalled conversion rates – mobile web purchases are added to a user’s phone bill with a single click.
So cheer up Zuck, there’s much you’re doing well. Mobile monetization through paid content is key, and with the Bango partnership, you’ve already got the right friends.