The Facebook Mobile Agenda Starts to Become Clearer

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t stand up well against the beaming lights and the piercing questions at the D Conference last night. Zuckerberg was noticeably sweaty and overheated, and his run-on sentences came off poorly in comparison to quips from practiced CEOs like Steve Jobs (s AAPL) and Steve Ballmer (s MSFT) (see video here). We’re not going to give him a free pass on that, but we do think there’s some interesting information to unpack from what he said about mobile.

Asa Mathat | All Things Digital

Zuckerberg cited an older stat about 100 million people using Facebook on their phones, and Facebook has often said its mobile site is about reaching users in countries where PC access is less common. But it so happens that there’s new data out from Strategy Analytics today that indicates just how prevalent mobile Facebook usage is in the U.S. and the UK. Two-thirds of those surveyed in the U.S. and almost half in the UK said that they access Facebook as much or more from their mobile phone than the computer.

Strategy Analytics concluded that the phone is becoming the primary way people use Facebook, despite what it described as a sub-optimal user experience. People tend to use Facebook on the phone for purposeful and short tasks vs. doing more intensive things like uploading photo albums from their computers.

Onstage at D8 last night, Zuckerberg also dropped a few hints about how Facebook perceives mobile going forward. Until now, the company has been a bit haphazard on mobile strategy, with at one time a one-man Facebook iPhone app shop, and still no iPad app to date (though one is apparently coming). Zuckerberg said Facebook’s mobile experience is challenged by the splintered mobile experience among Android (s GOOG), iPhone, HTML and other apps. Most interestingly, he said Facebook is agnostic about the current hubbub around Flash — aka the raging debate between Adobe (s ADBE) and Apple about the preferred way to display video and interactive content on phones. Zuckerberg said, according to the D liveblog:

“I tend to believe more in the web than apps. The thing that I actually care a lot more about is how you integrate people into all this stuff.”

Those are some pretty simple statements but they’re also significant, because they set up Facebook’s positioning in the mobile world. That first sentence aligns Facebook most closely with Google on mobile apps vs. native apps, and the second points to the expected partnership between Facebook and Apple to provide a social layer throughout the iPhone, iTunes and other Apple products. That move would be a direct affront to Google, and it could be announced as early as next week at Apple’s WWDC.

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