Facebook gets much-needed boost from new friend Apple

Facebook(s fb) has been swamped by a wave of scepticism about its prospects since its somewhat lackluster public offering last month, including concerns about a slowdown in revenue, and a fear that the giant social network has been struggling to monetize its growing mobile user base. On Monday, the company got a substantial leg up in both areas, when Apple(s aapl) announced that Facebook will be integrated into the new version of its iOS operating system. The only one likely to be unhappy about the move is Twitter, which had a somewhat unique relationship with Apple — until now.
As with the Twitter integration that Apple announced almost exactly a year ago at WWDC, the integration of Facebook into the iOS software connects the social network’s features to the operating system at a fairly deep level. After logging into the network on an iPhone or iPad, posting to Facebook will now become one of the menu of options that is shown to users from within any app, as well as from the device’s internal camera and built-in Apple services like Maps or Game Center. Status updates and other notifications will also show up in the main iOS notification panel (and in OSX).

Likes could create better app recommendations

Facebook integration shows up in some other interesting places as well — including the iOS app store, where users will now be able to click “like” on the apps that they use, a rating that could be used by both Apple and Facebook to target users based on their app-related behavior. Apple has been criticized for a lack of robust app-discovery features, and the signals provided by a user’s Facebook friends could help solve that problem. The network is also integrated into the Contacts part of iOS, which will theoretically make it a lot easier for mobile users to manage their contact lists, since information will be updated automatically whenever it changes on Facebook.

When Apple announced the Twitter integration last year, it was widely seen as a blow to Facebook, since the consumer electronics giant has a huge market share in mobile devices — and having the ability to post from any app or service makes it much more likely that users will do so. According to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, the service saw sign-ups by new users triple after the new integration was available. Now Facebook could get the benefit of those viral features, which may soothe some of the fears about a slowdown in user activity at the social network.

Apple and Facebook both get benefits from their new friendship

The move to integrate Facebook — which Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted about during a recent interview, by telling users to “stay tuned” when asked about a partnership with the giant social network — marks something of a rapprochement for the two companies. Facebook was widely believed to have been working with Apple on a deal to integrate some of its features into Apple’s own social network, known as Ping, but the deal fell apart. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the problem was the “onerous terms” demanded by Facebook.
Whatever the terms of the current arrangement are, it was likely too good to pass up for either party: Apple has been criticized by some for a lack of social elements in its services and devices, and while adding Twitter support helped that, integrating Facebook gives the company a much broader reach. For Facebook, meanwhile, being built into the iPhone and iPad on such a fundamental level makes it more likely that users will interact with the network even more from their mobile devices, and that in turn will boost the levels of engagement that Facebook uses to appeal to advertisers — and possibly open the door to more effective monetization options like e-commerce as well.
One of the potential bumps in this newfound friendship, however, could come when (or if) the social network introduces some kind of “Facebook phone,” something it is widely rumoured to be working on. Apple’s interest in helping to promote the company and its features might be tempered somewhat if it sees Facebook as a competitor in the phone market, but until then the arrangement seems like a win-win for both — and a loss for Apple’s former best friend Twitter.