Facebook Makes the Biggest Change to Mobile Ever

Updated from 9:02 a.m. to include more information about App Links on the second page.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- At its f8 conference yesterday, Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and team announced a slew of new products, including giving people a way to log in to apps anonymously. Perhaps the biggest news, though, was Facebook's announcement of a mobile ad exchange, known as Facebook Audience Network, which will allow app developers to better monetize their apps, and let Facebook make even more money than before.

In San Francisco, Zuckerberg kicked off the conference with three key themes: build, grow, and monetize your apps. He noted that despite the breadth and scope of Apple's (AAPL) iOS, Google's (GOOG) Android, and Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows phone for mobile operating systems, developers have a hard time building apps for each OS, having to rewrite code for the different operating systems. He noted Facebook's goal is to build the "cross-platform, platform."

Zuckerberg said that Facebook's original mantra, "move fast and break things," isn't really applicable anymore. "We've changed our strategy from moving faster to building the best tools. 'Move Fast with Stable Infra' may not have quite the same ring to it, may not be quite as catchy as 'Move Fast and Break Things,' but it helps us build better experiences for all the people we serve," Zuckerberg quipped. "It's how we operate now."

Shares of Facebook were higher in Thursday trading, gaining 3.1% to $61.65.

Apart from some of the more developer-focused issues (fixing all major bugs in 48 hours and having a 2 year core Application Programming Interface (API) stability guarantee), Zuckerberg noted the biggest thing people want is to keep their privacy, and now Facebook is committed to that. "Over the years, one of the things we've heard just over and over again is that people want more control over how they share their information, especially with apps, and they want more say and control over how apps use their data," Zuckerberg said during the keynote.

Zuckerberg noted that people were scared to use the Login with Facebook button, because it required people to originally share all of their data with the app, and potentially intrude on their friends. As such, Facebook launched the Anonymous Login, a way for people to log into apps without sharing personal information from Facebook with developers. "By giving people more power and control, they're going to trust our apps more, and use them more. That's positive for everyone."

Aside from Anonymous Login, perhaps the three biggest announcements Facebook made were the mobile Like button, App Links, and the introduction of the Facebook Audience Network. The Mobile Like button allows users to "like" the pages or content of individual apps through a native, mobile Like button.

App Links (for those who are not developers) are Facebook's attempt to allow developers to link to other apps straight from their apps, bypassing the mobile web. It would allow cross-app promotion, something that's trying to be worked on now by Google, but so far has exceptionally tough. This goes back to Zuckerberg's point of being the "cross-platform, platform," as apps works differently (and are built differently) for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Right now, App Links is open source and free to use, and comes with iOS, Android and Windows Phone support, with Facebook noting more in the future.

A prime example of this is if you're looking at a Hotel Tonight picture in Instagram, and you click on a link to that particular hotel, it will take you to the Hotel Tonight app from Instagram, as opposed to the Hotel Tonight mobile website. Right now, there are 25 big companies who are supporting App Links at launching, including Spotify, Pinterest, Goodreads, Hulu, Dropbox, and a host of others.

Facebook's revolutionary ad exchange, known as FBX, allowed desktop advertisers to more accurately target their audiences. Given the breadth, scope and accuracy of FBX, Wall Street had always wondered when Facebook would launch an ad exchange for mobile, considering it now has over 1 billion mobile monthly active users, as of the first quarter.

Facebook's Deb Liu noted that now nearly 60% (59%) of Facebook's revenue comes from mobile, due to actually tailoring the experience to users. Ads on mobile are not disruptive, and Facebook Audience Network can only help, as the company works with advertisers to bring relevant, interesting ads to users. Liu noted it encourages advertisers to work with Facebook, given the size of its audience.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Evan Wilson noted this is about Facebook becoming the infrastructure of the Web, and not just a place to go and kill time. "Facebook's opportunity to use its consumer data to sell ads on other apps and sites diminishes the importance of users spending less time of Facebook, although it would come at a lower margin," Wilson wrote in the note. "Instead, Facebook, barring any consumer backlash, becomes tied to the activity of its user base across the Web, which continues to grow."

Also See: Facebook Unveils Tools To Enlarge Its Mobile Footprint: StockTwits.com

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--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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