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How Facebook Stepped in a Hole on Mobile

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There was a really interesting discussion on a service called Branch a few days ago about Facebook's (FB - Get Report) new mobile app.

Branch is kind of short-form way to have multiple people chime in on an interesting discussion topic in a way that a community gets to view it and participate it. This one involved tech heavyweights such as TechCrunch and Crunch Fund's MG Siegler, Daring Fireball's John Gruber and the New York Times' Nick Bilton.

Everyone knows that Facebook recently upgraded its mobile app for iPhone. It has been a huge improvement. In my view, it's not so much that the new app is so great compared to other apps. It's just that the old Facebook app was so bad, this new version seems like a godsend in comparison.

The Branch discussion gets a little technical for some as it discusses the reasons for why the old version was so slow and buggy and why the new version is so quick. Basically, back when Facebook built its original iPhone app, it had to make a philosophical choice on how to do it.

It could have built one app in native iOS for Apple (AAPL) and then a different version optimized for Android, and others for Microsoft (MSFT) Windows Phone and Research In Motion (RIMM).

The advantages of doing so would be that the various Facebook apps would be optimized for each of those different operating systems. They would each look great and run faster and more efficiently.

But the downside of this approach was that it would take a lot more time and resources. You'd be redoing your efforts three or four times and then supporting these various operating systems over time.

The alternative for Facebook was to go with something called HTML5. This was supposed to be the next-generation version of the HTML coding language that had proliferated on the web for many years. Back in the early days of the Web, there were different browsers such as Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The prevalence of HTML ensured that Web site developers didn't have to make multiple versions of the same website for users depending on the browser they were using.
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