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Facebook recodes iOS mobile app to address speed complaints

Facebook has rewritten its iPhone and iPad app from scratch to address complaints that it was slow to use.

The program had previously been created in the HTML5 language. A team of engineers has now rewritten it in Objective-C and says it should now respond to commands twice as quickly.

The move may encourage users to spend more time using the program, increasing their exposure to adverts.

It previously warned the wrong mobile strategy would damage profits.

The move effectively returns the social network’s app back to its roots.

The first version had in fact been written in Objective-C, but the developer, Joe Hewitt, quit the project in November 2009 in protest against Apple’s insistence that software had to be reviewed before being added to its store.

He was replaced by a team of engineers who subsequently released an app with a wider range of features which they decided to write in HTML5.

The choice was made to allow them to write a single version of the product that would run on both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems, as well as via the web.

This made it easier to make changes to the multiple platforms simultaneously.

However, it also led to complaints including a viewpoint written by one developer for the BBC earlier this year.

“The existing app suffers from endless loading, refresh problems and feels more like using a website from the late 90’s,” wrote Malcolm Barclay.

“To put it another way, it is like listening to a transistor radio… HTML5 can run on many different devices (eg Android), hence it costs less to maintain and there’s no need to make separate apps. I doubt Facebook really benefited from this – users certainly did not.”

Speed bump

Mick Johnson, product manager at Facebook, said he did not think the company had made a mistake in using HTML5 since it had helped the firm get the product to this point.

But he added that the rewrite to “native code” should mean users would notice a difference, even though there had been only minor tweaks to the app’s look.

“We tried to look at what is the core Facebook mobile experience and eliminate the pain points,” he said.

“The three things we really focused on were opening the application, scrolling through the news feed and tapping into and viewing a photo. So we made all those things twice as fast.”

He added that the rewrite had taken more than half a year to complete, but had no information about efforts to improve its counterpart on Android.

Advertising revenues

The announcement follows Facebook’s efforts to increase the amount of advertising on its apps.

Earlier this month it announced third-party app developers could start placing ads in users’ mobile-device news feeds.

If a user clicks on one of the links, they will be redirected to the appropriate app store from where they can purchase the software. Facebook charges a fee for each click.

It has also introduced Sponsored Stories – posts created by an advertiser that appear if a “friend”, or page the user is connected to, shares the material. By paying a fee, the business or organisation can increase the likelihood their posts will be seen.

The firm is under pressure to boost its revenues after its shares more than halved in price since the firm’s flotation in May.

There were also concerns raised earlier this week after it emerged that Peter Thiel, a member of its board, had sold most of his stake in the company for nearly $400m (£252m)

[Via BBC News]

Facebook prepares to go public

Facebook will begin the process of becoming a publicly-listed company this week, valuing the social networking site at between $75bn (£48bn) and $100bn, reports suggest.The company plans to file papers with the US financial watchdog on Wednesday, according to the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The flotation later this year would raise about $10bn, they reported. This would be one of the biggest share sales seen on Wall Street. It would dwarf the $1.9bn raised by Google when it went public in 2004. It would still, however, be some way short of the $20bn raised by carmaker General Motors in November 2010.

‘Brilliant achievement’

The reports suggest that Morgan Stanley will be the lead underwriter for the sale, with Goldman Sachs also expected to be heavily involved.Rumours of Facebook’s so-called initial public offering (IPO) have circulated for many months, and the company has maintained it will not comment on the subject.

The reported valuation would make Facebook one of the world’s biggest companyies by market capitalisation. “Facebook a brilliant achievement, but $75-$100bn? Would make Apple look really cheap,” said Rupert Murdoch on Twitter.

The company was started by Mark Zuckerberg and fellow students at Harvard University in 2004 and has quickly grown to become one of the world’s most popular websites. It makes most of its money through advertising.

As a private company, Facebook does not have to publish its accounts, but reports in January last year suggested a document sent by Goldman Sachs to its clients showed the firm made a net profit of $355m on revenues of $1.2bn in the first nine months of 2010.

Source: BBC News

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ACAS releases social networking guide for businesses

ACAS logoThe first guide is launched today to help Britain get to grips with a cyber problem estimated to cost the country billions of pounds every year.

Employment relations expert Acas has drawn it up to help businesses, staff and trade unions agree how to handle the use of the internet, blogs and social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter inside and outside of work.

Logging on to social media has rocketed in the last ten years, with almost six out of ten staff (55%) now using it at work, either on computers or mobile phones. But employers say many staff are also abusing it by looking at their personal web pages instead of working, posting derogatory comments about managers and colleagues, or buying and selling online.

Most employers are unclear how to manage this aspect of the digital revolution. A few, such as BT and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, have issued their own policies, but research has found that fewer than one in ten employers have a social media policy. Acas’s guide is believed to be the first offering advice to all employers.

Most employees, too, are confused over when, where and how they can use social media in and away from work.

Acas’s main recommendation is that an employer should consult with staff and trade unions to spell out the dos and don’ts of using the internet and social media, and should also make clear the consequences of breaching its policy, which should become part of contracts of employment.

It stresses that in working out a policy, employer, staff and unions should agree so employees do not feel gagged, staff and managers feel protected against online bullying, and the firm feels confident its reputation will be guarded.

Acas Chief Executive John Taylor said: “Online conduct should not differ from offline conduct. Employees should assume that everything they say on the internet could be made public, and should think whether they want their colleagues or boss to read it. They might not mean it, but what they post could end up being seen by billions of people worldwide.”

Acas also says it is vital employers, employees and unions keep up to date to review a company’s internet and social media policy because the technology and its use are evolving fast. And the issues have yet to be really tested in law.

Bosses are also advised to carefully assess the potential harm from an employee stepping out of line on social media before deciding how they will react. Mr Taylor said: “If an employer is too tough, it needs to consider the potential impact of any negative publicity.”

And if bosses check on employees’ use of the internet and social media, they must make it clear what they scrutinize and why. Mr Taylor said: “Heavy-handed monitoring can cause bad feeling and be time consuming.

A manager wouldn’t follow an employee down the pub to check on what he or she said to friends about their day at work. Just because they can do something like this online, doesn’t mean they should.”

“Importantly, many companies want their employees to be up to date and comfortable with internet working, as social media sites are increasingly a key part of business and marketing. Firms need to bear this in mind.”

Go to http://www.acas.org.uk/socialnetworking for more details on Acas’s guidance including practical tips for employers.

FaceNiff Android app makes hacking Facebook simple

FaceNiff is a new Android App that makes it literally effortless to log into someone else’s Facebook account as long as that person is on the same Wi-Fi network as you.

This application works by capturing and sniffing all the packets that are sent  around the network. The application itself doesn’t hack into Facebook, it wait for a user on the same wifi network to login, then it will intercept the data and display the user’s login ID. Then clicking on the name and ID, the app user is able to log in and take over the account.

In addition to Facebook, this application works with Twitter, YouTube and Amazon.

Android phones need to be “rooted” in order to run the app (a simple process) then the handset owner can just download and run the app. The video below shows just how simple it is (don’t try this yourselves folks, it’s illegal).

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bgwVM7t_s4

There are a couple of ways to protect yourself from this hack:

1) Use SSL – Facebook, Twitter and Amazon all allow secure connections using https: instead of the standard http: – this means the data sent from your handset is secure and cannot be intercepted by the app.

2) For any service that does not support SSL, you can set up a VPN tunnel – this is a private network connection over public Internet which terminates on a trusted connection (such as your home or office). If you are unsure how to do this, your IT support company can advise you.