With Project Spartan, Facebook Wants To Kill The App Store Using HTML5

With Project Spartan, Facebook Wants To Kill The App Store Using HTML5

Social networking giant Facebook is secretly working on a way to put their own App Store on tens of millions of iOS devices. It’s called Project Spartan, and it’s an aggressive attempt to build an HTML5 front end for all of Facebook’s existing apps on any Apple device, even without Flash installed.

According to Techcrunch’s sources, eighty outside developers including contributions from big name companies like Zynga are currently working on Project Spartan, and making sure it supports both interactive games and credits.

The goal here is not just to make Facebook as full-featured and rich on mobile devices without Flash as it is on the desktop, but also to undermine the iOS App Store with an app marketplace that Apple can not stamp down on or control.

It’s a pretty bold vision for the future, but how successful Facebook can be competing with the App Store on Apple’s own devices is something else entirely.

  • eikonklast

    Facebook is doing Apple a favour. Another reason to buy an iOS device.

  • Alberto Carlos Velasco

    Apple will start encoding all of the App Store Apps in HTML 6.  Then Facebook is done..  Muahhahahahahaha…

  • CharliK

    Not really sure how this will have any effect on the app store since the Facebook app is free so apple gets nothing. And zynga etc can leave their games in the store if they want

  • Guest

    Makes sense.  Its probably how the Facebook “app” is for the Chrome Browser.

    Its basically a shortcut for the Facebook website.
    This way, Facebook can make one Application (website) that can run on all devices.  Instead of having to make an iOS app, android app, webOS app, blackberry app, windows mobile app, OS X app, windows (desktop) app, they can make one application that has the ability to run on all devices.I wouldn’t be surprised if all applications that (heavily) rely on the web will become this.  Because if your application heavily relies on the web, it would be easier to make one app (website) that have the ability to run on all devices than having to make an app for 5, 6, 7 different platforms. 

  • David Asch

    I’m sure it’ll look great on the iPad version of the Facebook app..no, wait a minute..

  • Greg Braddock

    my question is: how will this app store be regulated? I mean, we’ve seen on Android how a “Free-For-All” appstore works…

  • Kevin Smith

    This seems like potentially the worst idea Facebook has ever had. They seem like they’re continually trying to push against Apple little by little with no real effect.

  • twitter-19292286

    Sounds like Facbook’s version of Chrome to me. Yeah, good luck with that!

  • prof_peabody

    Every tech blog site is reporting this as an “assault” on the app store, or an “attack” or words like that but if you trace it back to the source, or actually read what it’s all about, there is no indication of that at all.  

    This is an HTML ‘walled garden’ for Facebook, with Facebook branding, and just as closed and locked down as Apple’s App store.  It’s not competition for Apple, it’s not likely to have any affect on Apple at all, and it’s not intended to.  

  • Conrad MacIntyre

    Write once, run anywhere? I thought developers could only do that with Flash…

    :D

  • minimalist1969

    Name one web app that is a more fluid and better experience for the user.  Just one.   No matter how big your bag of tricks gets with HTML5 it still can’t keep up with the polished experience of a native app.

    Using Facebook via Safari on the iPad sucks yet the native iPhone app is almost better than the full web experience on a large screen.  Same with Pandora and Twitter.   The web experience sucks, the AIR experiences sucks even more, and the iPhone and iPad apps are absolutely amazing.

  • Conrad MacIntyre

    Anyone else remember when Jobs/Forstall walked on stage after unveiling the iPhone 1 and said hey! Guess what!? You get to write GREAT, BEAUTIFUL apps in HTML, CSS, and Javascript… and everyone was silent?

    Now that Apple has an App Store for native application (which everyone wanted) the rebellion is starting by build the very HTML5 app Apple has been touting since the beginning… unbelievable.

    Anyway, I *MUCH* prefer a native front-end for a web based service or application. That way I can use it even when I’m not connected to the web (say travelling internationally, or in an area with poor cell reception. – or *any* place with my WiFi-only iPad).

    That said, I think this is a great endeavour and I hope all those devs well in it.

  • minimalist1969

    Great products aren’t made by making developers lives easier.   They are made by creating the best experience the user can have.  No mater how sophisticated HTML5 or runtime environments get,  they are always going to trail behind the seamless experience of native software written for a specific device.

  • Lonnie Lazar

    Um, Facebook apps?  I don’t even allow those on my desktop.  Why would I get excited about putting them on my iOS device?  Kudos, too, to David Asch, who makes a great point…

  • BigBlenderOfTech

    Say what now? The iOS app is AWFUL mainly due to its bugs. It took them, what five months to fix the photo upload bug. On a social media app…

    Plus most of the content is pulled from their mobile site anyway to populate the iOS app feed pages. Features come and go.

    Facebook have said that writing native apps for multiple platforms is too time consuming.

    So unless Apple up their game with Safari, Facebook will continue to be an awful iOS experience.

  • RobPungello

    Personally, I’d rather Facebook/iOS develop a contact syncing solution that doesn’t completely suck before trying to kill off the App Store (yeah right, Mark).
    The fact that Facebook will only pull down contact info from people already in your contacts list on iOS is, frankly, useless.
    On Android, all I have to do is sign into Facebook and BAM! Everyone is automatically added to my phone’s contact list (and I can then choose to display only those with phone numbers).

  • Wayne_Luke

    So farms, spam apps and other trash? Does Facebook have any worthwhile apps already? The only thing I can think of is site login integration.

    Anyway, Apple will just put app capability on AppleTV just for games and video but could be useful for presentations and other business purposes as well.

  • Redzinfandel

    The article should have been titled ” With Project Spartan, Facebook Wants To Kill Google Android Using HTML5″. What I’m reading they just duplicating the Google mantra, everything must run in the browser. As Conrad MacIntyre mention. Nobody was excited when Apple told the developers to build Web App.

    When you look back in time. Facebook had more rift with Google. I don’t remember Apple coming up with “Buzz” or blocking exporting importing contact. Apple have so far always tread all social media equally. The only thing Apple did, was Ping, which I’m sure Facebook are smiling when they heard the word Ping. Also remember the rumour of Facebook phone running Android. 

  • Hiro Chavez

    if its html5, it will run on the ipad or iphone too. no biggie

  • MPD01605

    If the HTML5 version of the Facebook website works even half as well as the current Facebook website, it’ll work a quarter as well as it should.

    Was that math right?

  • James McGhie

    I trust Jobs and co. far more than I trust Zuckerberg. 

    Maybe Facebook should focus on improving their actual iOS app, returning it to something more along the lines of the 2.x release that was actually stable enough to use, instead of this pipe dream nonsense.

  • Tom McGrath

    Well Facebook, look at it this way. Apple failed at trying to beat you with Ping, so what’s to say you won’t fail trying to beat Apple with Spartan? You might as well just save yourself the effort, and get back to designing an iPad app, finally.

  • rsbell

    I thought Facebook was dead.

    Wait, that was a dream I had.

    What a nice dream it was….

  • aardman

    Wait, when iPhone first came out Steve Jobs said “web apps” and everyone howled that was a bad idea.  Today Facebook whispers “web apps” and suddenly that’s the greatest thing since sliced bread?

  • minimalist1969

    I completely disagree.   The web experienced on an iPad and the mobile site on the iPhone is far, far worse.  Touch targets are way too small, pop ups designed for mouse-overs require multiple presses to function and there’s no uploading those pictures.   And I don’t believe for a second that the worlds biggest and wealthiest social network can’t find a few stray engineers around their headquarters to author native iOs, Android, Windows 7 and Blackberry apps.  

    The one size fits all software approach is lazy and sloppy.  Bean counters, engineers and ideologues love it but consumers want apps.

  • Mel Marcelo

    What type of Apps are they thinking of? Farmville? Bejewelled? Millions have already abandoned those games?

    The only apps I know of that get attention are the ones disguised as video links that end up hacking accounts.

  • minimalist1969

    No there are all sorts of crappy ways for developers to build lazy, generic experiences:   Flash, HTML5, Adobe AIR

  • minimalist1969

    No there are all sorts of crappy ways for developers to build lazy, generic experiences:   Flash, HTML5, Adobe AIR

  • Barbara

    I’m with you.I want to be able to play a game or use an app I paid for any time I want, not just when I’m connected to the internet.

  • BigBlenderOfTech

    Exactly! 

    That’s what I was saying. The app though awful is still better than the web experience which is even worse. What I was disagreeing with was that the iPhone app is amazing, it isn’t. Plus there isn’t an official iPad app yet.

    A native app is designed to be a better, more immersive experience yet Facebook have taken this and ruined it. An native iPad app has been greenlighted. I can’t wait to see what bugs they’ve baked in, so people will use the mobile site instead…

  • baby_Twitty

    so how on earth are they going to integrate Accelerometer/ gyroscope, A5 processing power … etc etc…  into some lame facebook games thats only powered by a browser? FB apps can never be in the same league as apps on iphone/android phone…

  • minimalist1969

    I guess we are in agreement then :-)

  • twitter-11842652

    And Apple will end it :)

  • MatsSvensson

    “Project satan”?

    Oh noo, i bet it something bad!
    =0

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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