Could new Facebook apps be a trojan horse for mobile ads?

Alex Masters

facebook trojan horse 300x240 Could new Facebook apps be a trojan horse for mobile ads?Time and time again I’ve wondered, like many others, why Facebook hasn’t started monetizing its mobile apps as the company’s stock price continues to drop. Are they really that worried that they might scare everyone away with ads in the mobile news feed? After all, the mobile apps are so bad it’s hard to dislike them any more than we already do. Then it occurred to me: perhaps a complete mobile app redesign will be the trojan horse Facebook needs in order to integrate mobile ads into its app lineup with as little friction as possible.

They’ve had plenty of time to do something about their apps and yet here I am, still using the awful mobile Facebook site despite having access to the official Android and iOS apps. Personally I think they’re holding out long enough for their users to become so frustrated with the mobile apps that they literally do not care about the addition of ads. It sounds crazy that they would purposely annoy users with terrible mobile apps any longer than they need to, but if they can make the transition from bad app to brilliant app, then they might be able to slip a few extra features in at the same time with little opposition from users.

As long as the apps themselves improve dramatically, the adverts may be accepted without too much backlash. Any other company would struggle to pull off such a feat, but we’re talking about Facebook users here. Users that have threatened to leave time and time again, but always seem to stay, regardless of how annoyed they get with changes to the service.

The truth is people are so deeply invested in the Facebook platform, that it would take a lot to force them to abandon the service that most of their friends still use. I don’t see a mass exodus from Facebook happening any time soon, at least not until a comparable service rears its head with better features and a more innovative design. We already have Google+, which pretty much ticks all the boxes, but general public adoption has been slow. I love Google+, but until my friends and family start using it, it will remain a niche social network.

That being said, inserting ads into Facebook’s current stock of mobile apps could be catastrophic. Making bad apps even worse at the user’s expense is something that could start a groundswell of Facebook backlash, capable of making users leave in their droves. People would be very angry to see Facebook trying to monetize a bad app, rather than spending time creating a better experience. So any future design overhaul would have to come first, or at least at the exact same time, which is what I predict will happen.

A complete mobile redesign could be Facebook’s trojan horse for ads. While users celebrate a shiny new mobile experience, they would pay considerably less attention to the inclusion of adverts in their news feeds. In order to pull such a feat of misdirection off, the mobile redesign would need to be exceptionally well thought out and flawlessly executed. However, a new design on its own might not be enough of a distraction. The addition of new mobile hardware on which to enjoy a new Facebook experience on the other hand, might.

With the next iPhone just a few weeks away, closely followed by rumours of an iPad Mini making an appearance at around the same time, we may well see new Facebook mobile apps launching alongside redesigns of the world’s most popular mobile devices. Facebook could ride Apple’s wave of hype and excitement with the introduction of two brand new iPhone and iPad apps, optimised for the new screen sizes. This is the kind of positive audience Facebook needs to help counterbalance the introduction of mobile ads.

New Facebook apps could also coincide with the roll-out of Facebook support in Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Something that has been delayed until a later date, rather than being made available when Mountain Lion first launched. Perhaps we could see some clever device sync functionality between desktop and mobile devices debuting on Mac OS X, then rolling out to Windows 8 computers and tablets later in the year.

Android apps could also be rolled out in a similar fashion, possibly alongside the release of the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The first generation has sold over 10 million units since its release last October and the 2nd generation is expected to continue this trend.

This is all simply speculation of course, but it highlights the potential ways in which Facebook could roll out mobile advertising without rocking the boat too much. Something that they can’t afford to do as much now that they’re a public limited company.

What do you think? If Facebook can dramatically improve the mobile experience, would you welcome the addition of mobile ads?

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  • Mr 0a

    “The truth is people are so deeply invested in the Facebook platform”

    Rubbish, it’s all a complete myth. I decided about a year ago not to log in again and have done so quite easily.

    This is the thing with online – the barriers to stopping using a service in reality are near zero. When it becomes unfashionable or the next big thing comes along. Remember Friends Reunited?

  • stonedwolf

    AdBlock Plus (Firefox) or AdBlock (Chrome) are there for the web, have no interest or need in using it on the mobile.

    That share-price ain’t rising any time soon…………

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