Rumor: Facebook, Apple to take on Google with HTML5 platform

A new rumor suggests Facebook is working on an HTML5 platform, codenamed Project Spartan, that will take on Google's Android Market, with help from Apple.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

Project Spartan, the rumored HTML5 platform aimed at the hundreds of millions of Facebook mobile users, is being developed by Facebook and a group of 80 or so third-party app developers, who are affectionately known as Spartans. Some of those developers believe Facebook's intentions are to break up the control Apple and Google have over the mobile app space, though Facebook of course denies this.

TechCrunch reportedly quotes two such Spartans:

I look at these apps and how content rich they are and how they have nothing to do with Apple and everything to do with Facebook and assume that they think we are retarded.

Facebook wants a cut of the Apple's mobile app market, that's been clear this entire time. Perhaps it's not war against Apple — maybe Apple is just going to 'gift' Facebook the share of their market (the HTML5 share) in exchange an alliance being formed whereby Apple gets some exclusive access to Facebook's 600 million-plus users and thereby cutting out Google (exclusive to some degree, Facebook is too open for it to be fully exclusive). In this theory, it's not Facebook Spartans vs. Apple, it's Facebook/Apple Spartans Vs Google.

Facebook is pushing to have apps on the platform, which range from games to news-reading apps, ready by July 15, 2011. The social network will reportedly make the project official sometime between then and August 1, 2011.

The above screenshot (click to enlarge) looks like a modified version of the current Facebook mobile site. Two things stand out immediately: Games and Apps, with notifications. The blue bar along the top, referred to as the chrome, binds all the different Facebook mobile sites together. These HTML5 apps will reportedly reside somewhere in the cloud and then pull in the blue chrome from Facebook so that they look like proper Facebook apps.

Facebook wants this HTML5 app platform to succeed so the mobile world is not fully controlled by Apple and Google. The company would of course also love for its own payment platform to dominate mobile by allowing developers to sell apps and offer in-app purchases with Facebook Credits.

Last month, when Project Spartan was first rumored, the first target was mobile Safari, meaning the various devices running iOS: the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod touch. As a result, the speculation was that Facebook was eager to fight Apple, but now it's being suggested that may not be the case, and that Google is in the crosshairs.

The broader goal is to get people using Facebook as the distribution model for apps, rather than Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market. Again, it's not clear whether Facebook is siding with Apple or Google here, if either. If it's the former though, this would be in line with another rumor from last month: Facebook Credits to work on Apple's iTunes platform.

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