Project Spartan: Facebook’s secret plan to attack Apple’s iOS App Store

“Project Spartan is the codename for a new platform Facebook is on verge of launching. It’s entirely HTML5-based and the aim is to reach some 100 million users in a key place: mobile. More specifically, the initial target is both surprising and awesome: mobile Safari,” MG Siegler reports for TechCrunch.

“Yes, Facebook is about to launch a mobile platform aimed squarely at working on the iPhone (and iPad),” Siegler reports. “But it won’t be distributed through the App Store as a native application, it will be entirely HTML5-based and work in Safari. Why? Because it’s the one area of the device that Facebook will be able to control (or mostly control).”

Siegler reports, “Facebook will never admit this, but those familiar with the project believe the intention is very clear: to use Apple’s own devices against them to break the stranglehold they have on mobile app distribution. With nearly 700 million users, Facebook is certainly in the position to challenge the almighty App Store distribution mechanism. But they need to be able to do so on Apple’s devices which make up a key chunk of the market.”

“While the target may ultimately be Apple, in this regard, they’re somewhat helping Apple by killing off yet another huge piece of Flash reliance on the web: gaming,” Siegler reports. “But again, the real goal is to get people using Facebook as the distribution model for games and other apps, not the App Store (or any other distribution hub).”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Why is the ultimate target Apple’s App Store? Wouldn’t the target actually be any platform with a browser capable of executing HTML5, which would include Android, Windows Phone ’07, webOS, and others?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Moo Latté” for the heads up.]


      1. No, you’re not the only one out here with a life. There are a few of us who don’t need it or Twitter to get through the day. Sheep. There will always be followers who can’t think for themselves. Sad.

        1. why do so many of you assume that because you’re not on FB, everyone who is are lemmings, sheep, etc. That’s arrogant and a bit stupid IMO. I personally love FB, because it allows me to communicate with relatives that I wouldn’t otherwise have communicated with (my mom is the youngest of 15 children, so I literally have hundreds of first ad second cousins, not to mention all of my aunts and uncles). I’m on FB because I choose to be, just like you choose not to be. Live and let live, and don’t be such pricks about it.

          1. There are other things, like email, strange thing to say that you wouldn’t otherwise be communicating with your relatives. Kind of supports what others are saying here, really.

          2. These people who are not on FB are living in their own vacuum. Almost everyone I know is on FB and I say that to counter the arrogance of those who think people on FB have no life. In real life, I meet my friends and family for BBQ, children’s birthday parties, adults poker night, shopping, etc. and we all share info, photos, real-time chatter (big sale at Target right now on ice cream!), and do it all on FB and Twitter. We meet up with friends who are in the same location that we didn’t know they were. In a way social networking apps make us live EVEN MORE than those people without it.

            1. I guess what I am also saying is, anyone who even has a few friends WOULD be on FB. The only people I know who don’t have FB tend to be loners (there’s a geek I know who doesn’t leave his apartment and has very few friends and hates FB), or totally tech inept (one of our 80 year old family members who can’t even use a cell phone), or have something to hide (I know a guy who steers clear from FB-type apps because he is juggling multiple girlfriends)

      2. If you have a small business that’s media related, FB and Twitter are sadly the best way to get you’re name out there, and keep your name/brand relevant. I have both FB/T for the sole purpose of connecting with potential clients… Annoying but seemingly necessary?

          1. No, you’re not.

            We use FB and Twitter to reach those who *are* on them, and conventional means to reach those who aren’t. Why does it always have to be an either/or proposition for you people?

            FB should not be a substitute for real life, anymore than SecondLife or (cringe) WoW. But it serves to enhance my “real life” by providing me with instant communication with groups of people I associate with in an easy and intuitive way.

            And anyone who would condemn me, or anyone else, for using it in my professional and personal lives really needs to just get a life, and lose the egomaniacal trappings of their elitist attitudes (far too typical of the “Apple way or no way” crowd).

    1. Facebook has its utility, but it’s extremely limited. It’s remarkable how much “life” is wasted on Facebook each and every day. Glad to see I’m not the only one!

    1. I hated going to the mobile site for MDN… On my iPhone though. Was fine on the iPad.
      I don’t do Facebook, but this isn’t an app store attack..

      Didn’t Facebook lose like 6 million accounts in the us last month? Or was it year… They claim 700 million users, I wonder how many of them are actualy in use. Not accounts that are just abandoned.

  1. Well, if their killer plan is anything like their website or iPhone app then Apple hasn’t a thing to worry about.
    Anyone else feel like this will be myspace 2.0? I do.
    It gets worse with time, and they’re losing US members in big numbers…

  2. Exactly MDN. This way Facebook can write one (web) app and target all major mobile platforms. Apple, Android and RIM all use the same browser engine and Microsoft is committed to HTML5. It just makes sense to do this rather than develop individual standalone apps for each platform. It’s not an attack on Apple at all. Frankly, I’m surprised no one else has done this yet.

    1. Web apps would be useless for FB, can’t access the camera or albums so no photo or video. No photo tagging. No location tagging. No contacts access either, would be _so_ fun to manually add contacts. No offline access. Only thing you could do with a html5 app is text updates. Without access to the iPhone systems it would be super lame.

  3. At this point I can’t say that I like the way Twitter works as opposed to FB, but Apple is incorporating Twitter into iOS 5 so strongly and maybe Apple should just buy Twitter and make it the “new” FB! Apple could definitely improve it to be better than FB.

  4. I have loads of apps that just simply would not work under HTML5. There are a huge number of iOS APIs that couldn’t be emulated.

    It seems FB just want to create loads of shitty games—Cupertino isn’t going to lose a lot of sleep over this.


    1. I don’t really appreciate your language. Keep it clean. Keep it classy.

      I’m sure you could have used an alternate word for “tool”.

  5. If FB games developers release high quality versions that can work within Game Center as opposed to getting all those annoying alerts on your FB updates, it would be worth the $0.99 for each game if that’s all they charge.

    I want to see what’s important to what’s happening in my friends’ lives – not the fact that they just played some crappy game and indiscriminately allowed it to send invites to all their friends.

  6. There’s an ECHO Echo echo in here.

    As previously commented about the last MDN article about Project Spurting:

    Hello! These are only Web 2.0 apps! Nothing new here except added HTML5 code! They run ONLY over the Internet! Ding Dong! Anyone home?!

    These ‘apps’ have no access to the iPhone hardware or file system. Only the web browser is ‘native’. There is nothing ‘native’ about Web 2.0 apps except that fact that they are ‘native’ to the Internet. That’s all.

    MDN’s take = Right on the ball!
    BFD Apple = target. This stuff would run on ANY Internet browser anywhere. This is all FaceBook blowhard bravado. It’s nothing but more Farmville-type dross. Why care?

      1. Correct. Take a look at PieGuy, a variation on PacMan. It loads into HTML5 data cache everything needed to play the game, so you can play it fine in airplane mode.

        1. Offline access won’t help you with FB or any social apps. Sure you could dl the code, but the whole point of social is to see/tell your friends what you are doing now. No Internet access, no updates, no point. The FB app on the other hand is actually useful offline. I can queue up photo uploads while I’m offline. Of course a webapp can’t access the iPhone system either.
          I prefer native apps, and considering the billions downloaded a lot of other people agree. Willing to pay for them too. The only way you can monetize web apps is thru advertising. Ask the android developers how that is going. Google doesn’t even publish their developer income. Must be huge ;). Apple have paid out 2 BILLION DOLLARS to iOS developers. I’m sure those developers are dying to write webapps that make them no money 😉

    1. I don’t/won’t buy apps from them. Any content that isn’t free, including FB itself, is of no interest. They started charging for Foo Pets- what kind of loser would subscribe to an imaginary pet? I don’t see the attraction.

  7. Maybe I’m missing something because I’m not as smart as Mark Zuckerburg, but if you design something that works through Safari, Apple could pull the plug on your “app” at any point by inserting some kind of filter in Mobile Safari to keep the trash, like a Facebook app, out. But I’m sure Mr. Zuckerburg has through of that.

    1. That would be censorship. Not a good idea to decide which websites your customers can visit and which they can’t. That’s just like the Chinese gov’t.

    2. Why would Apple block them? Apple designed their mobil browser to work with Web Apps. Web Apps are good. They’ll never replace native apps but they’re better then Flash. Apple wants this kind of thing to happen.
      I don’t know why this article makes the idea of mobil apps seem like it’s an attack on Apple, it’s not. It only helps Apple if there is more content available for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad.

    1. Yeah ! Let’s see what kind of new innovation you can bring to the table FB!

      Facebook is in trouble when it’s users grow tired of it. The mind is fickle and something new and exciting will drive an exodus of people from Facebook.

  8. Thank goodness we have MG Siegler of TechCrunch, who has access to and is not afraid to disclose all of Facebook’s secret projects to destroy its competitors! Daniel Ellsberg, eat your heart out!

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