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Summary:

Yesterday, the iPad launched and uncharacteristically missing from the line-up of apps: Facebook. The lack of the official app turned customers to buying a $2.99 app, Facebook Ultimate, which is now being universally panned by those who ponied up the cash. Did Facebook miss an opportunity?

Update: Facebook, the social networking company, has long been the champion of the iPhone and iPod touch, using those devices as a way to grow its presence in the mobile world. Whenever a new iPhone launched, it was always ready with a brand-new version of Facebook Mobile — whether as a web site or as an application, thanks to super-hacker Joe Hewitt. And perhaps that’s why everyone assumed that there would be a Facebook Mobile app for the iPad.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Instead, consumers are buying an app called Facebook Ultimate for $2.99 a pop. It is the eighth-most popular download at this minute and let’s just say it is horrible — or at least that’s what people who spent the money on the app are saying. The reviews of the app are universally bad and the app is getting 1.5 stars in ratings in the iTunes Store.

Given the popularity of the app, I wonder why Facebook itself didn’t release one. Have relations between the two companies cooled? Or is Facebook betting that browser-based access to the uber social network will suffice?

P.S.: Check out http://touch.facebook.com for accessing Facebook on the iPad. The web site is actually pretty awesome and is a good example of how to build a site that performs more like an app. The only thing missing in this interface might be push notifications, which are a key engagement methodology.

Update: Looks like the Facebook Ultimate app is gone for the iPad Store.

  1. Om, yeah what gives with fb? I think it’s a major misstep for them as the web version on iPad could use some optimization IMHO. Just compare GigaOM to fb and you’ll see what I mean – it’s like it’s not sized right or something. Also I just tried to upload a screenshot from my iPad via the web and guess what? You can’t. So had to go into the native iPhone app which looks like crap @2x. I know Joe isn’t happy with Apple but I mean come on…. The iDevices are a major user access point to fb more so everyday as time goes on.

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  2. The iPad isn’t important to justify its own Facebook app.

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    1. The download stats Om cited would seem to contradict that view, but keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. Personally, my guess is that Facebook decided that with this much available screen real estate, the website would be more than sufficient for iPad users; I don’t really use Facebook, so I don’t have an opinion on that one way or another.

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      1. Unfortunately the iPad’s browser and Facebook don’t play well together. Many pop-ups are broken (particularly the See All Friends where no scroll bar appears and sliding slides the page not the contents of the pop-up) and the chat widget doesn’t stay anchored to the bottom of the window. In the end it is mostly usable for basic stuff but still has a way to go (and this is certainly a Safari issue instead of Facebook’s) particularly to match the excellent GMail/Buzz web interface on the iPad.

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  3. Something that became clear to me yesterday while I was using the iPad is that it brings the browser back into the picture. Big screen, big keys, much less use for a streamlined “mobile” experience. A lot of my iPhone apps are simply not necessary when I can just use the website like I do on my laptop.

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    1. I agree, except for the push notifications (and in the case of Facebook, the syncing of fb photos to your contacts database).

      There are some tools out there to make an offline web app into a “native” MacOS/iPhone/iPad app. Might be the best way for Facebook going forward. Then the app and mobile website would be in sync.

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  4. Facebook Ultimate is a very badly designed application. It is missing all sorts of features and isn’t at all intuitive to use. I’ve resorted to the full Safari version on the iPad or, the iPhone version enlarged 2x which works fine. The problem with that version is that you cannot share a post as you can on the fukll web version.

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  5. I think the FB web page works great in iPad safari! So great that I think gobs of people are going to think of the iPad as a FB appliance. Really, once chat is fixed – why use anything else?

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  6. Om,

    This article came out in November, and it addresses exactly why the Facebook iPhone Dev quit. He’s even quoted in the article.

    http://techcrunch.com/2009/11/11/joe-hewitt-developer-of-facebooks-massively-popular-iphone-app-quits-the-project/

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  7. You don’t need an app for the iPad if you use Facebook. Simply click this link http://touch.facebook.com/ then click the + symbol and select Add to home screen.
    It creates a facebook icon that hyperlinks to it. I like it better than the iPhone facebook app!!!

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  8. Facebook has complained to apple and got the facebook ultimate app taken off of the app store, citing ‘violation of Facebook Platform policies around trademark infringement and affiliation’ ! Basically you can’t use the term ‘facebook’ in an apps name unless you are facebook.

    We have a facebook app out called ‘A FB Photo Sharer’, which allows users to post photos from their iphone/ipod/ipad to their facebook wall.

    Facebook created an interface (API) to allow developers like us to create useful apps to integrate with facebook, we’d like the freedom to be able to name the app in a way that describes its function!

    Why supply the API if they don’t want anyone to use it?

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  9. [...] — and someone on Apple’s crack app review team let through a paid Facebook rip-off app thatfooled and confused customers last weekend untilFacebook had it shut down for trademark [...]

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