Facebook's got a mobile problem. That is to say, it's worried that more and more people are using the mobile apps or websites, instead of the main site, and at the same time it's worried that more and more people spend time on other mobile apps.
That may seem contradictory, but it's not. People spend a lot more time on their phones or tablets. And they spend a lot of time on Facebook, so the two are bound to overlap.
As more people prefer their tablet to their laptop, those people are going to use the mobile apps more and the site less, but they'll still want to use more or less the same amount of time with Facebook.
The problem is, Facebook isn't letting them because most of the apps and the mobile sites are crap.
Facebook didn't even have an iPad app until a year ago. The iOS app was slow, buggy and lacking in features. It wasn't much better on Android or Windows Phone for that matter.
It's strange too, since Facebook knew very well that people were spending more time on mobile devices.
It was worried about this too, since it didn't monetize these devices as well or at all compared to the main site. Not that the main site is much of a revenue earner, given the amount of traffic and page views it gets.
Yet, Facebook a very, very rich company with thousands of the smartest people in Silicon Valley was unable or unwilling to put out a decent mobile app. The kind of app a 5 to 10 person startup put out in six months. The type of app that everyone praises.
Instagram was one of those apps and, despite the huge price, if that's what it took for Facebook to get some mobile smarts, then it was a very good investment.
It seems though that the message is sinking in. Facebook just rolled out an iOS app
that, for the first time, is not
slow. It had to rebuild the app for this, but that shouldn't be a problem for a company as big as Facebook. There are rumors that Facebook is now turning its attention to the Android app and will do a similar revamp of it.
That's probably the smart thing to do. Facebook needs a mobile presence and it's going to get it with a suite of quality products catering not only to the mobile space but the specific platform they're targeting.