Summary:

Facebook is modifying code for its mobile site to speed development and help offer common features across all phones. Now that the service sees 250 million monthly active users on mobile devices, the changes will help with a “write once, run on nearly any handset” approach.

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Facebook today an upgrade to its mobile site Thursday that will speed up development and help offer common features across all phones. The site, found at http://m.facebook.com, will be powered by a new user interface framework allowing the service to share code base and design elements between handsets with different capabilities, screen sizes and browsers. The programming change means Facebook won’t have to develop the same features multiple times over for its native clients, mobile site and touch-friendly version.

In a blog post to announce the change, Facebook explains the two largest inefficiencies of the current programming model:

  1. We were limited by the lowest common denominator for each site. We couldn’t use JavaScript and had device-specific file size limitations on m.facebook.com. Supporting a wide array of touch phones of varying quality on touch.facebook.com limited our ability to use modern CSS and JavaScript APIs.
  2. Every time we launched a new feature, we had to build it multiple times across different code bases: once for facebook.com, then again for m.facebook.com, touch.facebook.com, and in native applications as well. Honestly, we weren’t very good at doing this, so certain features were missing on different devices.

As a result, the old touch.facebook.com URL will redirect to m.facebook.com as the site rollout occurs in the next few weeks, and the browser code will dynamically adjust based on a device’s capabilities. The web client will know if it’s being displayed on a touchscreen device or a basic feature phone and adjust accordingly. Facebook won’t need to develop the same user interface components multiple times either. One call of Share button using XHP, which allows PHP code to understand XML, will display a button best suited for a particular device, for example.

While the look and feel of Facebook on mobiles isn’t getting a major overhaul, the company is taking steps on the back end to make changes easier, not mention faster. And this “write once, run on multiple phones” approach will help bring feature parity to Facebook users on feature phones and smart devices alike. The company notes it now sees 250 million monthly active users from mobile devices, so more efficient development methods are surely welcome to the coders in Facebook’s castle.

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