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Facebook targets mobile platforms

Facebook has made it quite clear that building out its mobile strategy is top of its to-do list for 2011. CTO Bret Taylor went so far as to call mobile services the company’s “primary focus for our platform this year.” It’s no wonder because Facebook’s mobile users are twice as active as those chained to a desktop, and mobile users have skyrocketed from 65 million a year ago to more than 200 million today.

The social networking behemoth’s strategy appears to be multifaceted: Facebook just released an app for feature phones to capture the majority of mobile phone owners who haven’t yet purchased a smart phone. To create this feature phone app, Facebook worked with Snaptu, a mobile app platform provider. The new feature-phone app supports more than 2500 handsets, features an easy-to-navigate home screen, contact synchronization and faster scrolling of photos and friend updates. The new feature phone app will roll out in 14 international markets, among them Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Mexico and Singapore.

On the flip side, the company has invested heavily in the HTML5 Web standard with the goal of creating a seamless user experience across all platforms and devices. (Approximately 125 million users access Facebook with HTML5-friendly devices.) To further this goal, Facebook is looking into the possibility of updating its website and its Android, iPhone and BlackBerry apps.

Further staking out turf in the mobile space, Facebook acquired the mobile advertising start-up Rel8tion, which is said to be developing a hyper-local mobile advertising service that would synchronize a user’s location data with the most relevant ads. Just a few months before Facebook acquired Rel8tion, the terms of which were not disclosed, the company had launched Facebook Deals, a service offering bargains and coupons to consumers who checked in with their mobile phones at locations such as retail stores and restaurants. Integrating a company that has figured out hyper-local mobile advertising clearly fits into Facebook’s efforts to not only build out the number of mobile users, but to figure out ways to monetize the mobile space; the effort echoes Apple’s purchase of Quattro Wireless and Google’s acquisition of AdMob. The Rel8ion staff, including founder Peter Wilson, formerly at Microsoft and Google, and former Microsoft architect Nat Brown, who also worked at iLike and MySpace, will work out of Facebook’s Seattle office.