Facebook’s widely anticipated iPad app, whose code had been bundled along with the Facebook for iPhone app and later pulled out, was apparently almost ready back in May this year. This piece of information comes from Jeff Verkoeyen an ex-Facebook employee who was working full time on the iPad version of the app. Following Facebook’s decision to indefinitely hold the release of the now-fully-complete app, Verkoeyen decided to quit the company and join Google.
Verkoeyen was working on the app for eight months and had put in a lot of work into the app, sometimes even working 80 hours a week. This was to ensure that the app is ready on time for release, but as we all know the app hasn’t hit the App Store yet, a good five months after it was feature complete. This naturally frustrated Verkoeyen and led to his decision to quit Facebook. TechCrunch managed to grab a few snippets of his blog before it went down:
“It is now nearly 5 months since the app was feature complete and I haven’t seen it released except for when the project was leaked on Techcrunch. Needless to say this was a frustrating experience for me. The experience of working on this app was a large contribution to the reasons why I left Facebook, though that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a difficult decision.
You probably saw the app when it was infamously leaked via Techcrunch. It was feature-complete by then and for reasons I won’t go into details on the app was repeatedly delayed throughout the summer.”
The immediate thought that comes to mind is why would Facebook want to delay the launch of an app that was feature complete five months ago. MG Siegler says that the strained ties between Apple and Facebook ever since the launch of Ping, Apple’s music social network could be one of the reasons.
But why would a third party app that requires no collaboration with Apple except for the approval process bear the brunt of a sour relationship between the two companies? Turns out, Facebook is using the app as leverage in their dealings with Apple knowing that a large portion of iPad users are waiting eagerly for the app. The dealings in question here refer to Facebook’s ambitious “Project Spartan”, an HTML5 platform for apps to work on Mobile Safari.
MG says that Facebook may be working in collaboration with Apple on Project Spartan:
“we’ve been hearing that Facebook and Apple may now be working together on the HTML5 project. Maybe it’s because Apple hates Google that much, or maybe it’s because they realize that HTML5 apps are still no real threat to the native app movement. Or maybe they want Facebook’s wildly popular social games to run inside of Facebook’s apps — including the iPad app. If this is indeed the case, negotiations may still be underway. That could be why we haven’t seen either Spartan or the iPad app yet, even though both are done.”
The question still remains whether web apps can match native apps in terms of performance and smoothness. Joe Hewitt, the developer of the initial version of Facebook’s iPhone app doesn’t think so. After leaving Facebook he was working on Scrollability, a project to deliver inertial scrolling on Mobile Safari. But if his tweets are any indication, he doesn’t seem too happy with the results he is getting:
Can’t believe I’m saying this, but 2 years later, I’m seriously considering developing for iOS (natively) again.
Trying to make Scrollability feel 100% native is driving me back to iOS. I can only hack WebKit so much before I throw up my hands.
You know how loading a PDF in your browser feels like entering an archaic world? That’s what embedded web browsers feel like on iOS/Android.
So until Apple and Facebook arrive at an agreement on “Project Spartan” and Facebook for iPad, iPad owners would be deprived of an official Facebook app.
How much longer can you wait?