The leaks from Facebook have been coming fast and furious in the last day or so.
TechCrunch reported Wednesday that Facebook was working on a standalone iOS photo-sharing app for iOS that mixes elements of social networking apps like Instagram and Path, helping to mitigate some of the problems Facebook’s iOS app has with dealing with photos.
Now it seems Facebook wants fight an app store war with Apple (AAPL) on Apple’s own devices. TechCrunch is reporting they’ve seen another leak of a secret Facebook product called Project Spartan, a web app store that will use iOS devices’ on-board Mobile Safari browser to access apps made using HTML 5. All these Facebook apps would be available on the Internet and accessible through Safari, so they wouldn’t necessarily load onto the iPhone or iPad’s dashboard screens like native apps do.
Basically, this allows Facebook to provide apps without actually dealing with Apple, since users can make use of Safari to go anywhere on the Internet, and do most anything, that they please. And Facebook has the kind of backing and resources that could make a mobile app store work and make money – its huge, 700 million-strong user base will help make users aware of the store and keep them aware of it, and Facebook reportedly has at least 80 outside developers getting in on the Spartan wave, among them Huffington Post and FarmVille creator Zynga.
Facebook is also reportedly trying to make coding for Spartan in HTML 5 really easy for developers, to try to keep the barrier for entry into the new space as low as possible. And Project Spartan would attempt to make thing as easy on users as possible, as well, by incorporating features like Facebook Credits for purchases.
Spartan might not be an iTunes App Store killer immediately upon its release. According to the TechCrunch story, some of the apps will be unpolished and presented in more of a proof of concept fashion. But if Facebook can leverage its massive user base and the resources it has behind it, it’s possible Project Spartan really could create an alternative app distribution model to oppose the App Store, and grab a cut of all the money that funnels into Apple’s market.
Finally – an official Facebook app for iPad
Also churning out of the rumor mill Thursday is a report from the New York Times that Facebook has finally got a working iPad app that’ll be hitting the App Store sometime in the near future.
Facebook has a solid mobile app for the iPhone (as well as for Google’s (GOOG) Android platform), but when it comes to the iPad, users have been forced to look for unofficial alternatives for more than a year now. Part of the delay has been Facebook’s own internal process of creating the app, which has seen a year of development, some personal interaction with CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, and a lot of changes in focus during its long development cycle.
Now, it seems Facebook has an iPad app with which it’s happy. The app works alongside the iPad’s on-board cameras to allow for instant posting of photos and video shot from the device, and Facebook has reportedly reworked its Groups and Chat features to work with the tablet.
Also on the docket is an iPad-optimized version of Facebook on the web. According to NYT’s anonymous sources, the mobile site isn’t meant to compete with the Facebook app, but to supplement it or maybe stand as a slightly less able alternative. The report says that Facebook for iPad will be free, and is due to hit the App Store “in the coming weeks.”