Facebook sheds some light on what it can get out of Parse

When Facebook (s fb) acquired Parse last
month, it was unclear what good could
come of the deal for Facebook. On
Thursday, Facebook executives didn’t
share detailed new plans for its developer
platform or Parse per se, but they did lay
out broadly how the social networking
giant can benefit.
Mike Vernal, Facebook’s director of
engineering, said the integration of Parse
technology could boost ad sales by
making development of cross-platform
mobile apps easier for developers to build
and run.
If a startup builds an iOS app with a way
to connect into Facebook, great, but its
reach is limited to the number of people
with iOS devices. Then the developers
would have to start over to build a
version of the app for Android (s goog)
and Windows (s msft) Phone operating
systems.
That’s where Parse comes in. As a
provider of a Mobile Backend as a Service
(MBaaS) with software-development kits
for multiple operating systems, Parse lets
developers quickly build out applications
without having to worry about managing
servers. When a startup expands its
offering from just iOS to Windows and
Phone and Android apps and drops them
in app stores, promotion becomes
important. Facebook can help with that,
by getting ads in front of users. The ads
expose the applications to the startup’s
app, excite users and — here’s the
important part — get more ad revenue.
Getting more from mobile has been a key
area for Facebook, and that’s why the
Parse deal begins to make more sense.
This is particularly important following the
mixed reception of Facebook Home.
Aside from being an ad revenue driver,
Parse makes sense from a content
perspective. Not every Facebook user
updates his or her lists of favorite things
and other fields, so enabling fresher
content from more external sources is
desirable; it could boost engagement.
Facebook recently rolled out to all users
the ability to be selective about what
content third-party applications can push
back to Facebook, and now users can
confidently approve of this sharing of
stories into the news feed and timelines
through more and more apps that
developers come up with.
Down the line, Facebook also wants to
make this data more accessible through
its newish Graph Search tool, Vernal said.
That move would scratch another item off
Facebook’s long Graph Search to-do list.
As for Parse, it will keep running the way
it has been, Sukhar said, whether
developers want to use Facebook as a
means of promotion or not.
One unanswered question is what will
happen to all the apps developers run on
Parse. (s amzn) “It’s business as usual, so
we’re actually staying on Amazon (s amzn)
Web Services,” said Ilya Sukhar, a co-
founder of Parse (pictured). But Facebook
has a boatload of custom-built
infrastructure. Couldn’t it just move
Parse-backed apps to Facebook data
centers, effectively turning Facebook into
a quasi-cloud service provider? Apps will
keep running on AWS “right now,” said
Facebook’s director of product
management, Doug Purdy. But the key
words are “right now.”
Purdy made it clear that Facebook wants
to just enable third-party developers to
build and run apps that people can enjoy
regardless of the device they choose. It
turns out that’s in Facebook’s best
interest, too.

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