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As Facebook buys Strobe, Tilde embraces its Web tech

Strobe worked hard on the open-source SproutCore technology, and Facebook likes it. CNET has learned that a startup called Tilde is working on commercializing it.

Facebook has acquired Strobe, a startup focused on the open-source SproutCore software--but CNET has learned that a new startup called Tilde looks to be picking up where Strobe is leaving off.

SproutCore is a package of prebuilt JavaScript code designed to ease the creation of Web sites and Web apps, including those that work on mobile devices. Charles Jolley has worked on SproutCore for years, including for a period of time at Apple where SproutCore was used in MobileMe services, before striking off on his own to form Strobe.

Several programmers left Strobe in October to begin a new start-up called Tilde. Co-founders are Yehuda Katz and Tom Dale, and others from Strobe who are involved include Leah Silber and Carl Lerche, Katz said.

"My new company Tilde is building several large-scale SproutCore 2.0 apps. We're investing heavily in the future of the framework," Dale said in a tweet yesterday.

Despite abundant competition for developer attention from mobile apps in particular, the Web continues to steadily rise in importance as a foundation for content and, increasingly, for software. It's a top priority at Google, for example, and Adobe Systems appears to be accelerating its embrace of Web technology instead of Flash.

One reason for the popularity of Web standards is that the Web reaches a growing number of other devices--not just computers, smartphones, and tablets, but increasingly TVs, cars, and more. Publishing on the Web has its limits, but it's also got powerful cross-platform advantages for developers who need a big reach.

Jolley announced Facebook's acquisition on Strobe's blog, saying that Sproutcore will live on but apparently not Strobe's service:

Strobe was founded on the belief that HTML5 can transform the way average people use their mobile phones through apps that are available everywhere, anytime, on any device. Now we're joining the talented people at Facebook to help develop innovative mobile experiences for their users around the world.

For now, the Strobe service will continue to be available to existing users in its existing beta form. We will provide updates by email if and when this changes. SproutCore, meanwhile, will continue as an independent project.

In a statement, Facebook said the acquisition was for talent, not technology. "Founder and CEO Charles Jolley will join our mobile engineering team, and we're looking forward to the major impact the Strobe team will undoubtedly make at Facebook," the company said in a statement.

Facebook is working to capitalize on Web technology. The company recently hired Mike Shaver, formerly vice president of technical strategy for Firefox. He said of the move in a blog post:

I'm going to start as an Engineering Director at Facebook some time in November...One reason is that Facebook is probably the most Web-influential company in the world on that side of the wire. They've consistently invested in the Web, from their mobile-client approach, to their APIs, to various tools and whatnot. I have unfinished business with the Web myself, and Facebook is a great place for me to continue to have influence over how it evolves.

Facebook has endorsed SproutCore as a way to achieve a style of programming called MVC that's widely used for large programming. MVC stands for model-view-controller, and it refers to the separation of programming projects for software's core engine (controller), its user interface (view), and its data (model).

One early Strobe customer was National Public Radio, which used SproutCore technology for its NPR Web application for Chrome.

Separately, another startup, Nodeable announced yesterday that it's hired Matt Asay, Strobe's former senior vice president of business development, to be its vice president of business development. (Nodeable Chief Executive Dave Rosenberg blogs for CNET, and Asay previously did, too.)

Updated 10 a.m. PT with comment from Facebook.