Facebook updates mobile apps, touts single sign-on (live blog)

Follow CNET's live coverage of the event taking place Wednesday morning at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. So far it's all about Facebook's phone platform.

Facebook event invitation
Facebook

Editor's note: We used Cover It Live for this event, so if you missed the live blog, you can still replay it in the embedded component below. Replaying the event will give you all the live updates from CNET staff writer Josh Lowensohn along with questions and commentary from our readers and CNET's Jessica Dolcourt and Caroline McCarthy. For those of you who just want the updates, we've included them in regular text here. You can find summaries of what was announced in our follow-up articles, this one on updates to Facebook's Android and iPhone app, and this one on single sign-on for Facebook mobile.

Join us Wednesday morning for live coverage of Facebook's mobile event , taking place at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., at 10:30 a.m. PT.

I'll be there, along with CNET's mobile phone and software expert Jessica Dolcourt to bring you news updates and photos, as well as a hands-on if possible of whatever might be announced.

As usual, we'll be using Cover It Live to deliver the story as it unfolds. That means you can just bookmark this page and come back to it tomorrow, or plug your e-mail address into the form below, and get a reminder when it's about to start.

As for what to expect in the way of news, it could be anything from an updated version of the company's mobile application, all the way to the rumored (and denied ) branded smartphone.

Related: Why a Facebook Phone may not be nuts

10:32 a.m.: Hey everyone, we're in and seated. Lots of people here. Event should start shortly, which in Facebook time is probably another 10-15 minutes.

10:32 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): Facebook is good at many things. Starting press events on time is not one of them.

10:34 a.m. (from reader @rspetterborg): Are they as secretive about this event as Apple is about theirs?

10:35 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): @rspetterborg, Facebook isn't as serious about secrecy as Apple is. Though they've kept this one pretty well under wraps.

10:34 a.m. (from reader Shane): So if its a phone, do you think it'll be Android-based?

10:35 a.m. (Jessica Dolcourt): Here's CNET's article on why a Facebook phone may not be nuts.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes the stage. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

10:36 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): This announcement is going to be partnership-based, it looks like.

10:36 a.m.: A handful of phone and hardware folks from other publications here, which as a frequent Facebook event-goer is definitely not the norm.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just came up and said "we're going to launch some stuff!"

10:36 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): Zuck just says this morning he got stopped by an old lady on the street who asked him, "What are you launching today?" LOL.

10:38 a.m.: Zuckerberg says a handful of things are coming today, and teams who worked on it are going to help present it. Now going over size of mobile users, which is now at 200 million.

"We have tripled in the last year," Zuckerberg says. 65 million people last year were using the mobile app compared to this new number.

10:40 a.m.: Zuckerberg going over new updates to Facebook's iPhone app, including Groups, and an update to the tagging feature used in Places.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:41 a.m.: Zuckerberg says the Places feature now has photo uploading, so you can take a shot of the food you're eating if you're at a restaurant.

10:42 a.m.: Zuckerberg says that when Facebook was developing its Android application, they had used a third-party developer. And they were almost finished when Google bought that company.

Coming to Android: Places & Groups.

10:42 a.m.: Zuckerberg says "no" on making a phone. Says goal is to "make things social."

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:44 a.m.: Zuckerberg says games have been the most transformative part of Facebook's mobile experience, and that making any app social is more important. "And that's what we're doing," he said. "This is the approach we have, and we're going to stick with that for a while."

10:45 a.m.: Zuckerberg says today's news is about the phone platform.

First new feature is a single sign-on.

Second new feature: new location APIs.

Third new feature is a "deals platform."

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:46 a.m.: On the location API, Zuckerberg says location read API has been there from the start, but write API was shut (so apps couldn't write into location information). That's changing.

10:47 a.m.: On the deals platform: Local stores and local places can give deals to people who are nearby. That too, Zuckerberg says, will be an open platform.

10:49 a.m.: Erick Tseng, the VP for Facebook Mobile, is up now, demoing how single sign-on will work. First showing us the typical sign-on page on a mobile phone, talking up the difficulties of typing in a tough password, which can be hard to do on your phone's keyboard.

10:50 a.m.: Tseng says single sign-on will remove the need to sign into services that make use of it (a la Facebook Connect), so that if you're already logged in to Facebook, you'll be able to sign in to other sites using those same credentials. Uses same system as on Facebook.com.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:53 a.m.: Now up on the stage is Mihir Shah, Groupon's VP/GM of mobile, who's talking about what Groupon does with its mobile site to give people nearby deals. Shah just demoed the new single sign-on option, which let him sign into the app using his Facebook credentials.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:55 a.m. (from reader Ian): Any comments about malicious apps accessing your Facebook account this way.

10:55 a.m. (from reader beez1717): I hope that malicious apps can't get in so easily.

10:56 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): They're going to have to address this malicious app stuff for sure.

10:57 a.m. (Jessica Dolcourt): One thing I will say is that the demos are short and sweet.

10:57 a.m.: Justin Cinicolo, the GM of mobile for Zynga, is now up, demoing the single sign-on working with Zynga's game Zinga Live Poker (which is coming to Android).

Cinicolo says the game has 375,000 concurrent users, 90,000 of which are going all-in on the game at any given time.

Single sign-on worked the same way as Shah's demo earlier.

10:58 a.m.: Here are the partners launching with Facebook sign-on:

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:58 a.m. (Jessica Dolcourt): Many of these apps will be available in the app store today.

10:58 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): They're coming to Android now, iPhone in a week or so.

11:02 a.m. : Tseng says mobile SDK is getting an update to include the single sign-on feature today.

Now going into location API, David Fetterman, lead engineer of the Facebook Development Platform, is going over the changes to the Places API.

Now developers can plug into the Places API to see where friends are, as well as write and publish check-ins. Facebook is also letting developers search for places in its locations database.

11:03 a.m. (from reader royyytheduck): Doesn't this seem like a lot of hype about this event for nothing?

11:03 a.m.: @royyytheduck, yes.

11:04 a.m. (Jessica Dolcourt): Dave Fetterman likes to roll around downtown Palo Alto, "looking for trouble" at the Starbucks on El Camino Real. Suburbia jokes, oy.

11:04 a.m. (From reader beez1717): How many people hate having their location displayed? I don't want people to know where I am.....

11:05 a.m. (Caroline McCarthy): @beez1717, that's a really good point

11:06 a.m. (from reader ThomasC): Wouldn't this be cheaper and a lot less wasted time to explain in a basic press release...

11:07 a.m.: Fetterman demoed the new location check-in functionality in Yelp, then showed how fast that information appears back in Facebook's mobile app.

Now, Sam Altman, the CEO and co-founder of Loopt up. Altman mentions that Loopt has included Facebook's Places integration for the past 6 weeks. And it's worked so well, the next version of the app on both iPhone and Android includes single sign-on and location features, though the demo app has just crashed for the sixth time.

Altman says the updated Loopt app will let you dig into a user's habits of going to local places to find good places to eat, or cool things to do.

11:10 a.m.: Fetterman now up on stage again, talking about the new search API, which he says ranks results of local places not just by location, but by importance to that user based on Facebook's relevancy algorithm.

11:10 a.m. (from reader Angi): I don't mind people knowing where I am when I'm out and about, but my house?? That's another story.

11:13 a.m.: Here's the deal with deals:

-Nearby view now has a little green rectangle next to it if a local business has a deal.

-You click the place

-Then you see the deal

-If you click on a deal, and claim it, you can show it to the cashier, or server, or whomever, and use it.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Josh Lowensohn

11:14 a.m.: Above is what deals look like on Facebook proper. Remember, just click the images to enlarge for a clearer view.

11:19 a.m.: Different deal types:

-Individual (single deals for people or groups)

-Loyalty (works like a loyalty card you could carry around. Facebook says it's worked out a way for merchants to set this up over the phone, so that users don't have to worry about keeping something besides their phone in their wallet or purse).

-Friend (something you can get or give from another Facebook user)

-Charity (check-ins with a donation that can be claimed).

Gap is one of the first retailers doing this with Facebook. 10,000 people who check in will get free jeans. Also on the list is Alamo drafthouse/cinema, which is giving away free pint glasses, and a free screening. The North Face has set up check-ins for each national park, and the Palms resort/casino is giving a third night free for anyone who checks in for a 2-night stay. The Golden State Warriors basketball team is using the check-in system for a game after-party.

11:20 a.m.: Feature will be added to Facebook Pages soon, launching with a limited list of partners for now:

Josh Lowensohn

11:22 a.m.: Zuckerberg is back up on stage, saying "that's enough for today." And that the big takeaway for the day is that the mobile space is changing fast, and the social space is too. From Facebook's perspective, Zuckerberg says "you can rethink any area to be social."

That's the end of the presentation, now we're moving to Q&A.

11:24 a.m.: Q: Can you talk about security and privacy with third-party companies to make sure nobody's location information gets misused?

Tseng: Everything you saw here today is no different from how we're currently using location. We have clear privacy tools, and you can go in anytime and get rid of the feature.

11:25 a.m.: Question from CNET blog network member Larry Magid: What about keeping third parties from sharing that information?

A: We're never sharing that information without the user's consent.

Zuckerberg adds: Nothing has changed from our existing privacy controls. If you want to access a person's location information, you have to ask for that, and the read API would let that happen.

11:26 a.m.: Q: A retailer had put QR codes on products and let people scan them to share it or add it to a wish list, is that something Facebook would be interested in?

A: Zuckerberg, there's a lot of stuff to do. We have a small team on this, we're iterating quickly, and launching new stuff.

11:28 a.m.: Q: Concerning the deals platform, users still have to look for them. How does that work with someone walking down the street, and businesses who want to get them in the door without people having to check?

Facebook: There's a bunch of ways to discover, both by checking in and local search. The one you were mentioning would be the "nearby" screen. We're being deliberate about not pushing deals except for things that are approximate. So we're not going to pitch you for coffee that's 5-10 miles away from your current location.

11:29 a.m.: Q: When will you have an iPad app? Zuckerberg: The iPad is not mobile. It's a computer.

11:30 a.m.: Tseng adds: You can either go to www.facebook.com, or touch.facebook.com. So it's not just about iPad, it's about 10-inch devices, and the question is how we tackle this new category. Android coming into the tablet market is adding to that complexity.

Zuckerberg: I didn't want to be rude towards Apple. We love Apple products, and use them here, I just wanted to keep the focus on what's being announced today.

11:31 a.m.: Q: How did you build up your Places database? A: We started with available data from different locales. The Places create API is not available, but that may be the next step so it's not just about the user's relationship to those places, but the Places API too.

11:33 a.m. (from reader Ben): What about a Places feature for BlackBerrys?

11:33 a.m. (Jessica Dolcourt): BlackBerry wasn't addressed at all, just Android and iPhone.

11:34 a.m.: Q: Coming back to the difficulty of users logging into mobile apps, is that something you saw users having trouble with?

A: Tseng: Yes, even if you just talk to developers, you'll get evidence of that. It's a really big problem, and one of the top issues devs get today.

Zuckerberg: It's easy to look at something like this and say oh, now you just got rid of a password field, but this is similar to YouTube changing Web video: You just click a video and it starts playing, which is what helped make video take off. We think the same thing will happen with single sign-on. More people using your apps will be doing so in a social way.

11:35 a.m.: Zuckerberg: What we're trying to do is make all apps social. What we know is that the more apps people use, the more they like Facebook. It will help spread social applications.

11:36 a.m.: Q: You guys have always been user-centric. But about the deals feature--does all the money go towards Facebook, or is there this idea of affiliates?

Zuckerberg: We don't get paid for the deals. It's a value for the user, and the business. If a business wants, they can advertise with the ad system we've had for years. When there are more deals in the system, we can think of a better way to surface them. In the meantime, this is the best way to surface those deals.

11:37 a.m.: Q: When's the new Android app coming?

Tseng: The new Facebook Android app is available right now.

Q: What about deals internationally?

A: They're in the U.S. today, they'll hit the rest of the world "over time."

11:38 a.m.: Q: With single sign-on, I think FB credits are coming to apps...

A: Zuckerberg; We're not talking about that right now. We'll think about this in the future.

11:39 a.m.: Q: Can single sign-on be cross-platform?

Tseng: No time frame for this yet. This is just the first version we're launching right now.

11:39 a.m. (Jessica Dolcourt): Just a note, Zuck didn't say Facebook *isn't* making an iPad app. He just threw out a red herring and redirected focus on Facebook's news today. Effective evasive maneuvering.

11:39 a.m.: Q: How can you keep people from defrauding profiles to get a reward?

Zuckerberg: The great thing about this is that you have to show this to a human, so it's really hard to lie to someone about who you're there with if they aren't there.

11:41 a.m.: Q: Can you share usage numbers of Places on mobile?

Zuckerberg: No, but before today, Places was available on iPhone, and we know it's multiples bigger than then.

11:42 a.m.: Alright everybody, thanks for sticking with us this morning. To sum it up, Facebook introduced a single sign-on feature for third-party developers to add to their applications, along with more access for developers to get and share location information from mobile apps.

The biggest piece of news is the new deals platform, which lets businesses create their own location-specific deal that can be redeemed by users from the Facebook app on their phone.

11:44 a.m.: Stay tuned for some hands-on action. And thanks again for tuning in.

Editors' note: The original, bare-bones version of this story was posted November 2 at 2:05 p.m. PT.

 

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