Facebook Unveils Mobile Ad Network, Anonymous Login

As expected, Facebook on Wednesday announced a mobile ad network at its F8 developer conference that will allow it to target its 1.3 billion users outside the social networking giant’s own properties.

Dubbed Facebook Audience Network, it will let app developers and publishers target banners, interstitial and customizable native ad formats leveraging Facebook’s vast trove of personal data. It will also provide access to the social network’s more than 1 million advertisers from local firms to global brands.

The program will roll out in the coming months, starting with advertisers who want to buy app install and engagement ads. Over time, Facebook's Audience Network will expand to businesses with other goals, including boosting Web site traffic and e-commerce sales. While encouraging developers to sign up to expand their reach and boost monetization, Facebook has not set a specific revenue share rate with developers.

Speaking at the event, Deb Liu, a project management director at Facebook, suggested Audience Network would handle targeting, reporting, and billing -- all on the back end. “Facebook now does all of this for you,” she said.

In the first quarter, $1.24 billion, or nearly 60% of Facebook’s total advertising came from mobile ads. About half of that amount came from app install ads that promote app downloads and re-engagement directly from within ad units.

The new audience network, however, will now bring Facebook into more direct competition with mobile ad networks like Google’s AdMob (and AdSense), Apple's iAd, InMobi and Millennial Media, among others. (Some details of Audience Network had previously been reported by TechCrunch.)

Facebook began experimenting with a mobile ad network two years ago, but pulled back on that effort to focus on building out advertising within its own site. But since then, Facebook has ramped up mobile advertising in particular as its user base has shifted dramatically from the desktop to devices.

In the conference keynote today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg focused on providing developers with a stable mobile platform for building apps and making money from them. Equally important, he suggested, is giving end users more control over information shared with apps. That ultimately benefits developers as well by increasing trust and interaction with apps.

“We need to do everything we can to put people first and give people the tools they need to be able to sign in and trust your apps,” he said.

With those key goals in mind, Facebook also made a flurry of other mobile announcements at F8, including the following new mobile-related initiatives and features.

Anonymous Login – An updated version of its login for third-party apps that allows users to log in anonymously so they can try out apps before providing their personal data. Users can later upgrade to the full Facebook Login to personalize their experience.

The updated login for apps also provides more control over what information is shared with an app. So people can decide whether to share information, including their friend list, email address, birthday and Likes. Even if someone doesn’t use anonymous login, the new permission dialog now allows you to go through your permissions line by line.

API guarantee –A two-year core API (application programming interface) stability guarantee aimed at giving developers advance notice before pushing changes. It covers thinks like login sharing, requests, SDKs and other Graph API features. Zuckerberg quipped that Facebook is changing its mantra from “Move Fast and Break Things,” to “Move Fast with Stable Infrastructure.” What a card.

New deeplinking standard – Facebook unveiled a new open standard for linking between apps called App Links. “All you need to do is add a few tags to your Web content and you're ready to let other developers link directly into your mobile app,” said Zuckerberg. AppLinks is also a cross-platform offering, supporting iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps. Pinterest, Redfin, Goodreads, and Hulu are among 20 apps already making content available for linking.

Mobile Like Button – The ubiquitous Like button from around the Web has been extended to mobile.  Now people can Like the Facebook pages or content of individual apps through a native, mobile button.

Send to Mobile – A new way for people to send an app to their phone after visiting a Web site and logging in with Facebook.

FbStart - A new program that provides mobile startups a package of resources and tools supplied by third-party partners and Facebook’s own mobile development unit called Parse. 

The full list of announcements can be found here. 

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