Facebook launches operator billing for mobile web apps

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BARCELONA, Spain--Calling the explosion in smartphone adoption "the most important technology trend since the advent of the Internet," Facebook CTO Bret Taylor announced the social networking giant is partnering with mobile operators across the globe to introduce streamlined billing practices enabling users to charge mobile web application transactions to their monthly wireless bill.

Speaking here at Mobile World Congress 2012, Taylor said Facebook will team with operators including Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T), T-Mobile USA, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, Vodafone, KDDI and Softbank Mobile to offer automated billing across all mobile web apps that integrate the Pay Dialog prompt, which initiates Facebook Credits orders. Facebook will roll out an SDK for mobile developers looking to incorporate Pay Dialog into their apps.

"We're eliminating the SMS verification step and giving users a single step to confirm their purchase," Taylor said. "We're unlocking the business potential of the mobile web."

Facebook also is introducing Ringmark, a new mobile browser test suite designed to give developers greater insight into which mobile browsers support the functionality a given app demands. In addition, Facebook will spearhead the W3C Mobile Web Platform Community Group, a consortium of mobile and electronics industry powers that Taylor said will "author, evangelize and prioritize HTML5 and mobile web standards." Participants include Samsung, HTC, Sony Mobile Communications, Intel, Texas Instruments, Netflix, Adobe Systems and Zynga, among many others. 

Taylor admitted that fragmentation poses a significant challenge to developers introducing apps across its platform: More than 2,500 different mobile device models access Facebook each month. "If the phone your customer is using passes the Ringmark test suite, you know your app will work on their phone," he said.

Facebook also will extend its Open Graph social discovery loop to native apps developed for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. Since the Facebook Platform developer toolset expanded to mobile devices late last year, recommendation tools and Newsfeed updates are responsible for sending more than 60 million visitors every month to apps and games. Mobile visitors were responsible for more than 320 million visits to mobile apps in January 2012, Facebook adds.

"Facebook and mobile phones were made for each other," Taylor said. "At Facebook, we don't think of our mobile products as an alternative interface. We think of [mobile] as the natural Facebook experience." Taylor added that Facebook's mobile experience is "the platform [co-founder and CEO] Mark Zuckerberg would have built" if today's devices and networks had been available when Zuckerberg began constructing the social network in his Harvard University dorm room eight years ago.

Facebook now tops 850 million users worldwide, with more than 425 million users accessing the platform via mobile device each month. Nielsen reports that Facebook is the most popular application across all mobile operating systems.

For more:
- read this Facebook Developer Blog entry

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