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Does your Facebook mobile app suck? Here’s why

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For the past year or so, I’ve noticed that my Facebook mobile apps have slowed down with each screen tap. I used to tap the screen and see the latest posts or photos fairly quickly. Now I see the “Loading” message more than anything else. Even worse: I’m constantly pulling the screen down to refresh the data, even when tapping a Facebook notification takes me to a supposedly updated post. I’m not sure when that behavior started, but it’s quite annoying and happens on both my Android (s goog) and iOS (s aapl) devices.

I long suspected these problems had much to do with Facebook’s use of various Web technologies, since much of the mobile platform was built with web standards and technologies such as HTML5, surrounded by a native wrapper for Android or iOS. But I’m not a developer, so I couldn’t be sure. Now I am, thanks to Dirk de Kok’s detailed post at Mobtest, which tests mobile applications.

The gist of the problem, at least for iOS (and likely for Android as well, at least partially) is two-fold. One problem concerns HTML use with UIWebViews but without support for Nitro, which is Apple’s JavaScript engine. The second happens because the app makes different data calls for similar, but out-of-sync information. Here’s a pair of excerpts to explain:

“For a starter, caching of unchanged content cannot be controlled by the developer. The FB app downloads the whole timeline HTML every time, and it is up to the UIWebView to determine whether it needs to download images, stylesheets etc again…. Also, to communicate from the UIWebView to the native app, a Javascript bridge is needed. This is tricky stuff, slow and not really thread safe.”

“For notifications, messages and friend requests regular REST calls are done, returning XML data. First check is to see what number of new notifications are there, then the actual content is retrieved in a separate call. As far as I can tell, the Facebook service calls return inconsistent information. When you check too fast what new notifications are awaiting you, you don’t get the new information.”

I recommend reading de Kok’s entire analysis because he explains in further detail how all these moving parts are working together in a less than optimal way, illustrating the exact behaviors I’ve seen in the Facebook mobile app. I think it’s great that Facebook is adding new features and improvements on a regular basis and I understand that by using Web technologies, it can make these changes on the server side; you don’t have to update your Facebook app as a result.

But for the time being, I’m going to switch to in my smartphone browser. I did some testing this afternoon and the experience is far faster, up to date and generally offers the same features as the native mobile app.

29 Responses to “Does your Facebook mobile app suck? Here’s why”

  1. How can I get facebook to look like I’m actually on my app. I want to just touch the Facebook app. So that when it loads up from my I app. I want it to be like when I’m actually on the net. With my phone. Like with the tool bar up on top. Like ur actually on the internet. While on face book. Well thanks if u can help. Sorry if I bugged u. Lol.

  2. I use a Galaxy S2running Gingerbread 2.3.3 and have to install / reinstall Facebook after about every 6 interactions which ruins the experience. The only other app I have trouble with is Kerrang Radio which stops working after 40 minutes and again has to be reinstalled :-/

  3. I used to think the site was a good alternative to the Facebook iphone app. However, that too is starting to perform poorly on both Safari and Dolphin now. 

    In the past month or so I’ve noticed if you pause when typing a comment, or go back in what you typed to correct a word before posting the comment, Facebook’s mobile site will cut off your comment where you paused, or not show your change. Or sometimes fail to post the comment at all.

    This started about the time that it started trying to bring up your friends to “tag” in a comment when you are typing (for example if you have a friend named “Ann”, if you start typing the word “announcement” Facebook’s mobile site assumes you want to tag her and her face pops up while you are typing). 

    Why not just allow people to tag with the @ symbol, and go back to having comments work properly?  It is soooo frustrating to tap tap tap out a long comment in a tiny 3-line window, only to have a)none of it post b)part of it post or c)posts with the typos and bizarre autocorrects you painstakingly scrolled back and fixed–in that tiny 3-line window.

    Another frustration with is attempting to view a comment on a post on your page from a notification. Oftentimes it takes you to your page, not to the post. And, since the advent of timeline, that means sitting and waiting for 30-60 seconds (on fast wifi) for the page to load, only to not be where you expected once it finally does load. 

    I’m amazed that a company with this amount of money would create products that perform so poorly for mobile. As mobile usage continues to grow, if they cannot keep up with the demand for quality access to their site, it opens the door for someone else to fill the gap. 

  4. I didn’t understand much of what I read up there because I’m not very tech savvy. All I know is the app has been deteriorating in functionality for a while now and it’s very frustrating! I followed your tip for using and it works 100% better than the app. Did not know of this option and I am very grateful for the tip!!!

  5. Michael Noga

    Facebook has been trying to sidestep apple for a long time, I honestly believe they know all about the issues in the native app and just don’t care to fix them. They WANT users to move to the mobile website. They have said many time that they believe in the mobile web and are not fans of Apples approval process. All this article is doing is helping Facebook get what they want, their whole user base on the mobile site rather than the native apps. As mentioned earlier, Facebook more than has the budget to build and maintain great native apps for both iOS and Android but they just choose not too.

  6. O Morales

    I had the same issues and it was very frustrating. But since I found my self using FB less and G+ I am very happy with what Google has done with the iOS app for G+ is an outstanding app.

  7. stephane

    Not only is much faster, it also has a lot more functionality. For ex , try to tag a photo, forward an invite or delete an album with the app. The mobile site allows it and much much more.

  8. Craig

    Facebook’s apps are appalling. I gave up after 5 minutes 2 years ago. I also hate the “touch” site as many functions, such as “remove post” were not there.

    The BEST way, on any platform (including PC) is to use , as this is not only faster for me, it has features missing from the touch site, whilst also omitting spam/ fluff, such as timelines, adverts, etc.

    In order for my Android to access the basic mobile site however, additional steps have to be made.

    First, download and install “Dolphin HD” browser. Then search for a dumbphone user agent and copy it. Then go to the settings in dolphin and find “use custom user agent” and paste the dumbphone user agent into the appropriate box/ field and finally save.

    Finally, go to m.facebook and then bookmark it. I even go one step further and use the great “folder organizer” app to assign an Facebook icon to it and then I treat it as an “app” to be launched from the homescreen.

    Now all i have to do is root my phone and erase the Facebook app for good.

  9. deeceefar2

    Just to be clear this is clearly all Facebook’s fault, and while there are real limitations in the native platforms, it is a failure to architect the service properly that they are running into these issues. I have little sympathy for a company with their cash to be running into these issues. They have to fix this NOW. I’ve solved these issues on apps with 1/100th their budget and it is silly for them not to fix this.

  10. diddy

    Best way to deal is to stop using FB entirely. Problem solved. And no I’m not being tongue in cheek…I switched to Twitter and get entirely the same “work” done, but with much more effeciency but on the web and on the app. Less info = quicker function.

  11. Diann

    Thank you! I’ve gotten here by accident a few times, but couldn’t figure out how to get here on purpose. And with the craptastic changes they just made, I was hating facebook on my phone. Way too slow!

  12. Prosthetic Lips

    I realized this a while ago. You don’t have as many options, some of the recent stories are hidden in favor of “top stories”, and it was a generally bad experience.

    In fact, I would suggest using the iPhone version of the page (yes, even if you are an Android user), seems to have phone-centric features quicker than m.facebook.

  13. I knew FB app was bugged for years now. Mobile site has always outperformed the app on my Android phones. Besides, I think the website is more likely to get timely fixes and updates than the app.