March 05, 2012

Facebook Launches Effort to Help Developers for Mobile Payments

It’s becoming hard to tell whether users are accessing Facebook (News - Alert) more through their mobile devices or on a computer. As mobile users continue to increase, Facebook is looking to make the mobile payment process easier for developers and consumers.

Along those lines, Facebook has launched an effort to standardize HTML5 to help developers write applications for mobile handsets. It’s working with mobile operators to make phone-based payments easier.

A new community group, Core Mobile Web platform, was formed by Facebook along with partners at the W3C (News - Alert). Partners include mobile operators, browser vendors, device makers and software toolmakers.

A test suite called RingMark was introduced to check how closely mobile browsers follow the standards to be developed. The suite includes hundreds of tests for features such as WebGL support.

Facebook’s IPO filing in February revealed that its payments business is growing at a healthy clip, and represented 15 percent of Facebook’s revenue last year. Its payment business is almost entirely used for the sale of virtual goods in games like FarmVille, and Facebook demands a 30 percent cut.

For payments, Facebook has partnered with major carriers to create a one-step payment system for carrier billing. The two initiatives are aimed at solving developers’ complaints about the mobile Web, said Bret Taylor, Facebook’s CTO.

One complaint is there is no easy payment system with stored customer credentials for the mobile Web as there is in native platforms such as Apple (News - Alert) iOS and Google Android.

"There's rampant technology fragmentation across mobile browsers, so developers don't know which parts of HTML5 they can use to deliver their app to customers," Taylor said.

HTML5 is promoted as a single standard, but it comes in different versions for every mobile device. Issues such as hardware acceleration, digital rights management and access to the phone’s camera are implemented inconsistently, making it hard for developers to write software that works on many different phone platforms and to reach a wide audience.

Facebook’s mobile initiatives are needed because so much Facebook use now takes place on mobile devices; it’s available on more than 2,500 different mobile devices.

It will introduce an SDK that will let developers reach consumers around the world with simple technical integration. It’s also aiming to reducing mobile buying down to a single step to confirm a payment, intended to eliminate SMS device verification.

"We think this experience can be as good or even better than the native platforms," Taylor said. "By having a great developer experience around billing we'll be unlocking the business potential of the mobile Web."

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin


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