Friday, June 08, 2012

Facebook officially launches mobile App Center

The social network is launching its app store with 600 apps, a key part of the social network's nascent mobile strategy.

Facebook tonight unveiled its mobile App Center as it amps up its efforts to improve its mobile business.

The new app center, the company's first big announcement since its IPO, went live with more than 600 apps, including Nike+ GPS, Ubisoft Ghost Recon Commander, Stitcher Radio, Draw Something, and Pinterest.

"The app center represents a new way for users to discover social applications," said Douglas Purdy, Facebook's director of developer products. Plus, he says, it gives developers a way to reach Facebook's more than 900 million users. Facebook was responsible for 83 million visits to the Apple App Store in May, Facebook said.

The App Center is designed to offer an experience personalized for each user, with app recommendations based on the apps they and their friends use. So if you're a person who likes word games -- something Facebook would know from your Facebook behavior -- the App Center will surface those sorts of apps for you. Then, when you select an app you like, you'll be sent to the Apple's App Store or Google's, depending on your device.

The App Center is available on mobile via the Facebook apps for iOS and Android, and by accessing on mobile. A huge amount of Facebook's mobile traffic goes through the mobile Web, not via apps.

Today's announcement comes a month after Facebook announced that it was launching an App Center, which it billed mainly as a way to help users discover the best social apps -- whether that's Pinterest, Spotify or Viddy.

Facebook is under enormous pressure to figure out ways to make money from mobile. And in the run up to the IPO, Zuckerberg told investors that mobile was his key priority for 2012.

The company has been making changes to its mobile products. Just yesterday it rolled out a "low-friction" mobile payment system to make it easier to make payments for virtual or digital goods via its app. And last month it redesigned itsmobile interface to display larger photos.

The company had 488 million monthly average unique users of its mobile products in March -- more than half of its 901 million users in all -- and is only just starting to experiment with ways to make money from mobile. One problem is that it simply can't show as many ads on a mobile device since the screens are smaller.

Facebook's mobile challenge -- a challenge shared by most all Web companies -- has contributed to the wave pessimism about Facebook's stock. Shares of Facebook closed today at $26.31, more than 30 percent down from their offering price of $38 a share.

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