Facebook Mobile users are twice as active on the social network than web-only users and account for about a quarter of its entire user base. As a result, carriers have been asking Facebook to trim down the amount of data contained in its mobile web versions. Carriers “want the same service,” said Henri Moissinac, director of the company’s mobile unit, “but with less data.”
Their reasons are twofold: money and speed. The spike in data traffic that’s resulted from the proliferation of smartphones has affected both carriers’ gross margins on data plans and the customer experience. Carriers, of course, are tasked with the challenge of figuring out “how to encourage usage and keep margins for mobile broadband high without overloading their networks or driving users back to the bad old days when everyone was too afraid to open the web browser on their phone for fear of exorbitant data fees” as Stacey notes in a GigaOM Pro report released today (subscription required). It’s imperative that data plan customers are happy with how quickly they can, say, thumb through pictures and news feeds, and upload a comment to a friends’ status update. If not, they could take their business — and money — elsewhere.
To that end, Moissinac said that, for example, all photos on Facebook Mobile are low-resolution. And when dealing with carriers based in emerging countries with 2G networks, Facebook can make photos smaller or bury them within the app altogether so they’re not displayed when a user first logs on. But going forward, it will likely have to offer additional concessions, since for Facebook, which just released its first official mobile application for Android devices yesterday and is currently developing an app for Palm’s WebOS, accommodating carriers’ concerns will continue to be necessary in order for it to successfully expand across the mobile realm.