Facebook touts the strength of its developer tools

Facebook is tooting the horns of its various developer tools by sharing how DoubleU Games, a South Korean developer, used them to learn more about Facebook users who play in the virtual casino of its flagship DoubleU Casino.
A case study provided exclusively to Gigaom shows that DoubleU Games used Facebook’s log-in feature to make it easy for people to sign up for DoubleU Casino; used App Install Ads to promote the game; and used the Analytics for Apps tools introduced in March to learn more about how the game is played.
Facebook claims the audience gained from App Ads now represents 80 percent of DoubleU Casino’s desktop revenue. The company behind the virtual casino found that most of its users (80 percent) sign in to the app with Facebook’s login feature. It also used the social network to drive increasing traffic to the game.
Other case studies have been used to drive home the same point: Facebook’s attempts to woo the developer community with new tools are working. Given the rocky past the company had with developers, especially those working on games that went viral before fading into obscurity, that might be a tough line to sell.
Just look to the cautionary tale of Zynga. That company used Facebook’s network to make games like “FarmVille” the darling of the social games market. Then, Facebook made it harder for the company to spam users with messages about their virtual farms, and “FarmVille” became a pale vision of its past glory.
Zynga’s fall makes it hard to believe that other companies can find lasting success on Facebook. That’s a hell of a counterpoint to case studies like this: Facebook could’ve written something similar about Zynga’s past successes, but that would only describe the highs it reached before it came crashing down.
Still, it’s clear that Facebook wants to earn back the trust of developers who can build things for its apps. (This is especially tru for App Instal ads, which Zuckerberg has long touted as a big deal for the company.) Sometimes that manifests as the addition of an app platform to Facebook’s increasingly popular Messenger service; otherwise it crops up as tools like Analytics for Apps, which debuted around the same time.
Then it writes up case studies like this to show that, at least for a while, these tools can make a real difference for developers. That certainly appears to be the case for DoubleU Games: Facebook’s tools helped the company find more users, keep them engaged, and figure out how it could squeeze more money out of ’em.
The trick is for these companies to use all these tools to support a lasting business. Until then we can’t be sure these case studies are capturing more than a snapshot of companies that are cresting the peak of their success. So, sure, look to DoubleU Games to see what Facebook can do. Just remember Zynga, too.

Facebook changes iOS share sheet, announces F8 2016 dates

Facebook has announced that members of FbStart, a program devoted to helping early-stage startups, have received more than $250 million in benefits since the program was introduced during its developer conference in 2014.
The program is supposed to help startups by giving them free access to products from Facebook’s partners; offering guidance from people inside the social network; and providing a network of startups that can help each other.
Facebook says more than 7,200 startups across 130 countries have signed up for the program. It’s also announced that new companies — including Dropbox, Animoto, and Twilio, among others — have partnered up with the program.
The company has also updated the “share sheet” used to post content from other apps to its service. (That’s the thing that pops up whenever you tap the “share” tool on an iPhone.) Here’s a comparison of the old and new versions:
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“Since F8, we’ve been testing versions of the share sheet to incorporate feedback from people and developers,” the company says in its blog post. “We learned that people want a simple experience that takes them directly to the composer after they click ‘Share,’ shows a clear preview of what they’re sharing, and allows them to complete the share quickly in just a few steps.”
Developers whose apps already support sharing to Facebook won’t have to do anything to enable the new share sheet, and getting the new one set up is just as easy as it was before. Users should “start to see the new experience” today.
In addition to those changes, the company also announced that F8, its annual developer conference, will be held between April 12 and 13 next year in San Francisco. Facebook often uses these conferences to announce new products, give developers new tools, and offer guidance on how to work with its services.

Parse teams up with Heroku to make devs’ lives easier

Facebook’s cloud development platform, Parse, has partnered with Heroku to make it easier for developers to take advantage of both platforms’ capabilities.
Parse announced last month that it would now support Node.js alongside its own Cloud Code, which is based on the same V8 JavaScript engine. Partnering with Heroku is supposed to make it easier to bridge the gaps between the two.
“Developers choose Heroku because it gives the developer experience they deserve and allows them to focus on building great apps. Heroku’s elasticity makes it easy for for them to scale their apps to the needs of their business — whether a tiny Y Combinator startup or Macy’s,” says Heroku’s head of product for ecosystem Craig Kerstiens. “This new partnership and integration means they can combine those benefits with powerful SDKs from Parse. Whether you’re targeting mobile, embedded devices, or IOT, you’ve now got new choices on how to build them with Heroku and Parse together.”
Parse and Heroku are both popular amongst startups and large companies alike. Connecting the platforms could not only make life easier for cloud developers, but could also make both platforms more popular by virtue of cross-promotion.
“Parse and Heroku have similar goals — helping developers build great apps using the best cloud backend tools,” says Parse product manager Supratik Lahiri. “Because of this similar focus, our teams have been in touch for a while, and the conversation developed naturally. At Parse, we’ve been looking for ways to make Parse more open and flexible for developers and a Heroku integration was a great way to do that.”
Facebook acquired Parse in 2013, just two years after its debut. Wired characterized the deal as Facebook buying its way into the “heart of the app world” because so many developers relied on Parse for their mobile apps. It’s now used by everyone from Cisco and MTV to McDonald’s and Samsung.
Heroku was founded in 2007, and it’s used by many startups to build and deploy their Web apps. It was acquired by Salesforce, which spent an approximate $212 million on a startup that raised only $13 million in funding, so it could be “the cornerstone for the next generation of app developers.”

As competitors spring up, Oculus plans mobile VR contest

Oculus launched a developer contest today that will distribute $1 million in prizes for games and apps built for Gear VR — the mobile virtual reality headset it helped Samsung build.

The Mobile VR Jam requires ideas to be submitted by April 20, and final products by May 11. Oculus will announce the winners in June. The top game will take home $200,000, and $100,000 will go to the top app.

The announcement comes just days after reports that Valve and Nvidia will release virtual reality headsets at next week’s Game Developer Conference. While Gear VR was the first notable headset to market and Oculus, virtual reality’s harbringer, has sold 100,000 units of its latest developer kit, virtual reality has not yet hit the mainstream.

Content will play a major role in the first headset consumers ultimately decide to buy. That makes Valve scary, as it owns Steam, an online game store with a ravenous community.

A silhouette of a virtual reality headset believed to be the Valve SteamVR surfaced on Reddit February 24.

A silhouette of a virtual reality headset believed to be the Valve SteamVR surfaced on Reddit February 24.

So why put up $1 million for Gear VR, a mobile, but less powerful, device on which Oculus collaborated? Samsung hasn’t released how many units it has sold, but Gear VR doesn’t appear to be a blockbuster (it’s still in the “Innovator Edition” phase, after all). It could use a boost from more big and inventive content. And whatever competitors come up with can be used on Oculus Rift too.

Oculus held a VR Jam back in 2013, when it offered up around $50,000 in prizes for content developed for its prototype headset. The gaming winner, Darknet, is still in production today.

As the virtual reality race heats up, let’s see which headset emerges as the Playstation and which is the Dreamcast. But, please, no Virtual Boys.

Apple: App Store developers in 2014 earned $10B, up 50% from last year

After what appears to have been a very successful fourth quarter driven by the iPhone 6, Apple’s taking a moment to brag. On Thursday, the company announced that, to date, the iOS App Store has paid out $25 billion to developers.

$10 billion of that total was billed in 2014, a 50 percent increase from the year before. For comparison, at the annual Google I/O conference this past June, Google announced that it paid $5 billion since the previous I/O conference, and that was a 250 percent increase over the year before.

Apple says that New Years Day, or January 1st, was the “single biggest day ever” in App Store sales history. It’s frequently reported that Christmas Day is the biggest day for downloads, but perhaps people the world over like to download apps on their iPhone while they’re hungover. Apple also repeated 90 percent of all transactions by purchase volume in the U.S. work with Apple Pay.

[company]Apple[/company] also updated a page on its website touting its effect on the U.S. economy. The figures provided are high-level, but they indicate Apple has 30,000 retail employees, 66,000 total employees, and 8000 U.S. suppliers. If you count “jobs attributable to the iOS ecosystem,” Apple claims it created or supports over 1 million jobs in the U.S.

Apple will shed more light on its financial performance — as well as how many iPhones and iPads it sold this holiday season — at its upcoming earnings announcement on January 27.

Google appears poised to open an app store in China

There are tens of millions of smartphones running Android in China, but very few use Google Play services and almost none of them have access to Google’s app store. It looks like Google wants to change that.