Facebook challenges Apple with iPad app

Facebook has launched its long-awaited iPad app and opened its platform to all mobile developers who want to reach its millions of mobile users without going through the Apple store.

Monday’s move is a direct challenge to Apple’s dominance over mobile applications, but a gesture of appeasement as well, as Facebook indicated it will still send a significant number of its mobile users to the Apple app store through the new iPad app.

Of the 350m people who use Facebook on mobile devices every month, roughly half of those users access Facebook through a web browser and half use applications that are built on the operating system within their device, such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, Facebook said.

“Social apps are all about interacting with your friends so the best social apps will be on both native iOS and web apps, and we encourage you to think about how to reach the total audience of Facebook users by building both,” said Luke Shepard, a Facebook software development engineer in a blog note to developers.

The new iPad app, which Facebook said offers a more “fun, colourful” way to use the social network, is available in the Apple app store for free. When users then want to access other apps that are built on Facebook’s platform, such as games, they will be directed back to the Apple app store. For paid applications, Apple will take its customary 30 per cent transaction fee.

On the other hand, when users access Facebook through a mobile web browser and they want to access a game or similar application, they will be directed to the developer’s website to download the app. Facebook is requiring that those developers use Facebook Credits, Facebook’s proprietary currency, from which Facebook takes a 30 per cent cut of developers’ sales.

Apple has sold more than 250m devices that operate on its iOS system, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said last week.

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