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Facebook's Sean Ryan: Mobile Future Of HTML5 Still Murky, But Coming

Facebook's Sean Ryan: Mobile Future Of HTML5 Still Murky, But Coming Exclusive

August 24, 2011 | By Christian Nutt

Speaking to Gamasutra, Facebook's director of games partnerships Sean Ryan gives a closer look at the company's attitude toward the question of whether mobile Facebook will move toward HTML5 and abandon native apps on the mobile side.

It's a move that could profoundly affect developers and their plans to support Facebook with games, opening up avenues to address mobile users directly through the browser.

"It's not a native or an HTML5 discussion.We view HTML5 as a technology, not a platform," said Ryan.

When it comes to the company's own Facebook mobile app for Android and iOS, Ryan sees a continued hybrid future.

"In fact, if anything what we've done on our apps is a combination of the two -- so native app download, HTML5 backend. Because we change our platform so often, and our apps so often, that we can't keep asking you to download a new app every two weeks -- which is about as frequent as we change it, so I think it's a hybrid world no matter what."

"We're in many cases rewriting our apps in HTML5, but it doesn't mean native apps go away; they coexist," he said. The company recognizes that "HTML5 is early days right now."

Said Ryan, when it comes to other developers games, the company believes in HTML5 as "the frictionless way of the future." However, he said, the company recognizes that "this is a native app world today -- and so for that we have Facebook Connect and Single Sign On, which are much simpler ways to make your game social."

He does see a future for the technology with game developers on Facebook, but will result in mobile game apps? "It's still too early to say exactly where we're headed. Ultimately, we want developers who invest in HTML5 to be successful, as well as help create the best possible experience for users," said Ryan.

Still, he's bullish on the technology's future. "We think HTML5 is the method to deliver Facebook and social experiences to as many people as possible, across any platform or device with a modern browser," said Ryan.

In fact, said Ryan, Facebook is more concerned with delivering the social graph to any platforms that have demand for it, than precisely what developers do with it technology or design-wise.

"We're focused on delivering real identity and friends essentially to wherever it needs to go. Whether you're on a console, whether you're on a phone, whether you're on a website or whether you're on our site. Facebook is more of a service than it is a site, and it shouldn't be seen as merely a destination."

"Our goal is to be ubiquitous so that anyone can create a social experience, regardless of the platform. We want to provide quality experiences that drive engagement on Facebook and partner apps," he said.

"At the end of the day, you don't care if your friend is playing Words with Friends on his phone or computer -- you just want to play with him. That type of engagement should be easy for users, and easy for developers to build."

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