Facebook (News - Alert) is on the verge of launching a new HTML5-based mobile platform that will enable the social network to build a marketplace for its own applications that bypasses the App Store, according to TechCrunch.
The platform, codenamed Project Spartan, will give Apple (News - Alert) mobile device owners access to as many as 80 Facebook-sponsored apps. Unnamed sources close to the situation told TechCrunch that Project Spartan will not exist as a native application within the App Store. Instead, it will act as an independent HTML5-based platform that will run over the Safari mobile browser.
In essence, Project Spartan will create an online Facebook marketplace that circumvents the App Store and Apple's restrictive policies.
Why would Facebook do this? The social networking giant "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," says TechCrunch's MG Siegler.
Several dozen developers are currently working on apps for the new platform. The applications will range from Zynga-owned mobile games to a digital newsstand magazine sponsored by the Huffington Post (News - Alert), according to TechCrunch. Each app will have a Facebook wrapper that will include some basic Facebook functionality.
Siegler said that he didn't need confirmation from Facebook because he has seen Project Spartan "with [his] own eyes."
Facebook is reportedly working on using its Credits feature to build a payment system that will enable users to make purchases within the platform.
If the report is accurate, Project Spartan will be a brilliant way for Facebook to respond to Apple's budding relationship with Twitter. Apple announced just last week that its soon-to-be-launched iOS 5 will include deep Twitter integration.
The micro-blogging platform will be integrated into many native iOS apps, including Camera, Photos, Safari and Maps, TMC (News - Alert) reported. In addition, users can link their iPhone contacts directly to each person's corresponding Twitter handle.
TechCrunch speculates that Android (News - Alert) will be the next logical target for Project Spartan.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves