Mobile fragmentation challenges Facebook

Social network's mobile team aims to beef up both mobile Web site and products to address fragmentation in handset market, says Facebook Mobile director.

Facebook needs to "beef up" both its mobile Web site and mobile products as fragmentation is a major challenge on the mobile platform, according to director of Facebook Mobile.

Henri Moissinac, director of Facebook Mobile, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that his team's key goal is to "enable any user, in any country, language, phone, data plan, to be able to access Facebook via mobile when they are away from their desktop".

In mobile, fragmentation is a major challenge, said Moissinac. "Should we invest our energy on building applications for smartphones for sophisticated users? Or should we invest our energy in deploying a simple, fast, cheap SMS (short messaging service)?"

Moissinac said the team tries to "carefully balance" its priorities between Facebook's browser-accessible mobile Web site and availing smartphone apps and SMS notifications, to cater to the fragmented mobile ecosystem.

"We think we have a great set of apps, but we will do even more in 2010," he noted. According to Moissinac, the mobile site has been "considerably improved" to be faster and easier to use.

Moissinac also talked about Facebook's recently-launched iPhone and Android apps. He said that both versions feature "deep integration" of users' ondevice address books. The iPhone version syncs the profile pictures of a user's friends with local profiles, while the Android version copies contacts' phone numbers and profile pictures into the device's address book.

In addition, the company is "aggressively deploying" its SMS service globally, he said.

On whether Facebook Mobile would overtake the Web version in usage, Moissinac said both services would co-exist as users tend to use both together.

In a report released Tuesday by Opera, Facebook overtook Russian-language social networking site VKontakte as the top social networking site visited through Opera's mobile browser in 2009. VKontakte ranks high on the list because of a high adoption rate of Opera Mini in Russian-speaking countries, the report noted.

Opera's report said unique users of Facebook on Opera's mobile browser grew more than sixfold over 2009.