**As published in RCR Wireless News** SEATTLE — If you ask the head of mobile at Facebook Inc., he’ll tell you we still have a long way to go before social media really spreads its wings in the mobile environment. “We haven’t yet even begun to see the true potential of what social looks like on your phone,” Erick Tseng said yesterday at Mobile Future Forward. “From our perspective we are still in the dark ages on what that should look like.” The end-goal sounds simple enough: “All of that social intelligence that you have built around yourself … all of that goodness should be available to you on the phone,” he said.
With more than 500 million active monthly users worldwide and almost one-third, or 150 million, of those users accessing the site via mobile, it’s astounding to just think how much Facebook can achieve and deliver on mobile. “We don’t have an operating system, but we do have a platform,” Tseng noted. Back in mid May, the social networking phenomenon launched a “stripped-down version of the web site” at 0.facebook.com that gives users (mostly in developing countries) access to their account with no data fees. Facebook has signed up 70 carriers for the service in barely more than three months. Except for the United States, “pretty much every other country out there is head over heels for this,” and Facebook isn’t paying a single penny to any carrier for the service, Tseng said. Tseng and others on his panel has a wide-ranging discussion about a series of other pressing issues for mobile. Open vs. closed “There’s no question that open is important and in some ways there’s an unstoppable trend toward open in mobile,” said David Weiden, general partner at Khosla Ventures. But in the same breath, he admitted that closed platforms are still consistently gaining clout in the space, particularly with Apple Inc. and its iOS. That’s not something that he would have predicted more than three years ago, before the iPhone came onto the scene. “It’s not just about open and closed, it’s about implementation,” Tseng said. Platforms of the open and closed variety have both succeeded and failed, he noted. “What defines a lot of success in the recent operating systems like iPhone and Android is their execution strategies,” he said. And like any conversation that includes Facebook these days, the panel couldn’t end without at least some commentary from the company’s mobile guru on the topic. Social privacy “We need to make sure that consumers feel they have complete control over their privacy – what they’re sharing and with whom. Controls should be as simple and intuitive as possible,” Tseng said. “We’re being aggressive with how we think about sharing,” he continued. “At every step of the way we want to make sure that consumers feel that we’re doing right by them.” A good range of topics were also addressed during a question-and-answer session, including interaction models for mobile devices, application storefronts and HTML5. Input, billing and HTML5 Beginning with interaction on mobile devices, it’s clear that the touchscreen has found a new prime seat at the table, but not everyone is convinced that typing or swiping on glass will be the end-all-be-all. “I think we’re not yet settled on which new interaction model is going to work,” Tseng said. “I don’t have the answer, I don’t think anyone does. I think people are putting bets down.” As for storefronts, developers are still clamoring to Google Inc. to enable in-app transactions and other billing solutions to match the business opportunities that developers already enjoy on Apple’s iOS. While Android is viewed as the carrier-friendly alternative to iOS, “what makes an app store platform really work is a billing system,” the moderator, Tim Chang, partner at Norwest Venture partners, said. David Marcus, CEO at mobile payments company Zong, said Google needs to either lay out its plan or embrace other tools that developers can use freely on the platform. HTML5 might be one tool that can help developers clear payments through third-party providers, but Andrew Lacy, SVP of Disney Games, isn’t so sure. Not only does he not expect HTML5 to takeover apps because the app experience is simply too compelling in his view, but when it comes to billing, an OS-supported solution can’t be beat,” he concluded.