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Facebook faces mobility challenges

Lots of people love their cellphones. Facebook, so far, is not a big fan.

business Updated: Feb 07, 2012 00:10 IST
NYT

Lots of people love their cellphones. Facebook, so far, is not a big fan.

Amid the jaw-dropping financial figures the company revealed last week when it filed for a public offering was an interesting admission. Although more than half of its 845 million members log into Facebook on a mobile device, the company has not yet found a way to make real money from that use.

"We do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven," the company said in its review of the risks it faces.

In a world that is rapidly moving toward an era of mobile computing, this is a troubling issue for Silicon Valley's brightest star - particularly since much of Facebook's growth right now is in countries like Chile, Turkey, Venezuela and Brazil, where people largely have access to the Internet using cellphones.

Facebook is not the only company struggling to translate the success of its website to mobile devices, where screen space is at a premium and people have little patience for clutter or slow loading times. It is a problem that plagues companies as diverse as news publishers and the streaming radio service Pandora, and it is likely to loom larger. There were more global shipments of smartphones than of personal computers in 2011, according to a recent report from Canalys, a research firm.

But the issue seems particularly urgent in the case of Facebook, which is wildly popular among its users and is seen as a company of the future, a hybrid of social hub and information conduit, platform and publisher. In other words, if Facebook cannot figure it out, who can?