While talking up its mobile strategy world domination plans to the outside world, Facebook has been pushing its employees to shift focus from big to little screen. Even before it went public, the social network struggled with mobile, admitting it was its Achilles' heel, since it doesn't quite know how to make money off of all its phone users. It has said many times that it's working on it. And now we know they really meant it. "We have basically retooled and focused the company around mobile," Mike Schroepfer, vice president for engineering of Facebook told The New York Times' Brian X. Chen. "It’s been a huge change." From our perspective that "huge change" has resulted in a new, faster iOS app, which came out yesterday. But it has also meant turning the Facebook mothership's course, resulting in a whole new job for some employees.
From the sounds of it, Facebook is attempting to change its entire company culture so that its workers think of phones before computers. Here's how:
- It's building a Facebook mobile engineering army. The company has started a slow conversion process of its programmers into phone-savvy engineers, holding training sessions every week, taking 20 people at a time and teaching them how to program for iOS and Android, according to Chen. Last count, Facebook had converted 100 of its over 700 engineers into phone app makers.
- Everything mobile, all the time. Now when something new gets developed at the social network, it gets both a mobile and regular version, according to Chen. That means double the work for everyone involved, as well as a required knowledge of both phones and computers.
- Forced Android use. Yesterday, only iOS users got a better phone app -- Facebook has yet to release an Android version. To prep its employees for the large Android overhaul, the social network has forced its people to give up their iPhones for ones with the Google operating system, former Facebook employees told Business Insider's Owen Thomas. "Facebook management realizes its Android app is subpar—and believes that the only way employees will take fixing it seriously is if they have to deal with its issues day in, day out," he writes.
As you can see, just from those little tidbits, which are probably just a few of the mobile-forward changes happening at the company, Facebook is trying really hard at this thing. So far, we haven't seen many worthwhile fruits of these labors. The iOS app is better, but not that great, as we noted yesterday. Some observers, like TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis, think even with the big push, Facebook is just playing catch-up—and a little too late. But, it's a step the public company has to make if it wants to appease investors and improve its bottom line and continue to make the world more open and connected. After all, its mobile users are 20 percent more active than the desktop ones, according to last quarter's earnings report, yet Facebook makes fewer dollars off of those people. Investors don't like that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.