ABI Research recently released a report that suggested Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg's epicly popular social network, will eventually need its own mobile operating system platform.
The research firm forecasts that all social networks will combine for 1.7 billion mobile users in 5 years. Facebook alone has 350 million active mobile users now, and 800 million active web users. With Facebook leading the pack, it will become sizable enough to command its own mobile platform like Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Samsung's Bada, etc.
Senior analyst Aapo Markkanen says, "A huge problem for Facebook is that while on the web it is a platform, on mobile it's just another application. To strengthen its hand in the short term we expect Facebook to aggressively take advantage of HTML5, but in the longer term it should absolutely become a mobile operating system of its own."
Another possibility is that Facebook deeply integrates with one major platform—likely Android, given the current mobile landscape—as microblogging real-time information network Twitter did with the iPhone. According to practice director Dan Shey, "The interesting aspect in Apple's and Twitter's partnership is how it can provide iPhone users with a verifiable social identity for websites and apps. That gives developers a lot of scope to innovate in areas such as authentication, personalization and advertising. It's a hint of things to come."
Critics of this idea argue that Facebook shouldn't make its own platform because it can barely make a good application, which is a much simpler thing to build. The iPad is still waiting for a truly dedicated Facebook app and the smartphone apps are widely percieved as mediocre to average, which would make the expansion to a full-blown OS very difficult indeed.