Facebook Mobile: iPad Diss, Geo-Location Deals, Universal Sign-On and Check-ins, No Facebook Phone

Facebook partners with big businesses like Gap and geo-location apps like Gowalla to create Single Sign-Ons and Deals.



“The iPad is not mobile!” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg Wednesday, at Facebook’s Mobile Event. Zuck was answering a question from the audience about why Facebook hadn’t launched an iPad app yet. “The iPad is not mobile–next question,” Zuckerberg answered, very bluntly. “I don’t meant to be rude to Apple products, but I don’t think the iPad is a mobile device in the way a phone is.”

Expected announcements for today’s event–an iPad app, Facebook phone–were quickly shutdown by the Facebook CEO, who instead chose to focus on the mobile platform. “There’s been this rumor recently that Facebook is going to build a
phone,” he said, building almost no suspense. “No! Our goal is to make
everything social. Our goal is to make it so no matter what platform
you’re building for, it can be social.”

Facebook, he boasted, now has 200 million active mobile users–triple from last year–and today’s presser was all about expanding Facebook’s footprint in the mobile space agnostically across any platform, with universal check-ins, sign-ons, and location-based deals.

Here’s the three big announcements Facebook made today.


Single Sign-On

“No one enjoys logging in,” said Facebook’s Erick Tseng, complaining about the annoyances of typing usernames and passwords on a mobile phone. “All of this is obviously really terrible–Single Sign-on solves this probem.”

Now, instead of entering a password and username each time, one must enter it only once. From then on, just click the Facebook Login button, which will appear, says Facebook, on many other services and sites — including Groupon, which was invited on stage to present the Single Sign-on-enhanced app.

“This make it really easy,” a Groupon product lead said, showing how with just one-click, users could access daily deals. Other partners in the development include Yelp, Loopt, and Scvngr.



“If Single Sign-on is the key to opening up the opportunities in mobile, then this is where location comes in,” began Tseng, before introducing engineering manager Dave Fetterman, who discussed the new elements of the location API.

The crux of the update is that friends checking in on a variety services can now be followed on Facebook. So when checking in on Gowalla or Foursquare, check-ins are pulled over to Facebook Places, and vice-versa.

Essentially, it ends having to worry about having friends on Facebook Places and separate friends on Gowalla or Foursquare. Check-ins are culled from, and friends can be followed on, the entire social graph.


“The thing that’s been missing in [online] interaction is for that local business–the wine store, the bar, the coffee shop–to interact with me,” said another Facebook exec. “The basic idea with Deals is to push deals out to existing customers and hopefully attract proximate new customers.”


Here’s how it works. When a user is walking down the street, he or she can pull up Facebook Places on a smartphone to see a list of near-by locations and deals. When seeing the right deal, one can claim it by checking in and showing it to, say, a restaurant waiter or coffee chop cashier. Users can also share the deal with friends. 

There are four types of deals, explained Emily White, Facebook’s director of local:

Individual: The one-off deals: buy one salad, get the second half-off.

Loyalty: The classic sandwich shop deal. Buy nine BLTs, get the tenth free. Facebook even provides a punch-card graphic.

Friend: Businesses can offer deals to groups of friends or people. Say, a free appetizer if a group of four comes in to a restaurant–all able to check in, of course.

Charity: Check-ins for charity. Each check-in allows users to donate money to a particular cause.


Big businesses are jumping on-board for the launch. To kick off the new feature, Gap will give the first 10,000 people nationwide to check in at Gap any pair of blue jeans–for free. Those checking in after that first batch will still get 44% off regularly priced items.

Any business–major or local–can easily get involved. Just pick the type of deal on Facebook, add a few lines of description, and then specify when the deal starts and ends.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.