Facebook Monday unveiled its long-awaited iPad app, offering access to popular features like photos and games, as well as new capabilities tailored specifically to the Apple tablet. The new mobile offering is available as of today in the App Store, where Facebook already has the most popular iPhone app to date.
The company also announced opening up its mobile properties--the iPhone/iPod and iPad apps and mobile Web site--to third-party application developers. Until now, they've been limited to distributing their apps through the desktop Internet version of Facebook.
Built using the HTML5 programming language, the Facebook iPad app is geared to the device's large touchscreen. It allows users to scroll through the news feed by fingertip, swipe to page through albums or "pinch" the screen to zoom in. Facebook emphasized the uploading and viewing of photos on the iPad as a particular strength of the format.
The tablet interface shows the news feed, friends, events, groups, photos and other items in a left-hand menu with relevant icons on a grey background near each. Messages and notifications appear at the top of each screen so users can keep up with updates without losing their place.
The new app also lets people chat with friends right from the iPad, play games on Facebook in full-screen mode and watch and record high-resolution videos, as well as stream to Airplay devices. The iPad app and the extension of Facebook developer platform to mobile devices, could also prove a boon to app publishers.
"Today, we are extending Facebook Platform on mobile, bringing all the social channels that have helped apps and games reach hundreds of millions of users on the Web to mobile apps and websites. You can now easily reach the 350 million people who use Facebook every month on a mobile device, including iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and our mobile web site," stated a post on Facebook's developer blog today.
As on the desktop, Facebook users with the above devices will now be able to do things like bookmark apps and invite friends to use their apps. Facebook Credits, the payment system the company has required for in-app payments since July, will also be extended to mobile Web apps. Facebook said it planned to expand support for more mobile platforms including Android in the near future.
Besides releasing the new iPad app, Facebook said it also made several improvements to its iPhone app--the most popular app ever on the Apple smartphone--and m.facebook.com, including simplified navigation, faster search and access to more games and apps.