By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 25, 2012 09:29 AM EDT
Facebook Inc. finally launched a faster mobile version of its popular social networking site on Thursday, Aug. 23, appeasing users unsatisfied with the Facebook app for iPhones and iPads. The social giant said it rebuilt the application from the ground up rather than adding a set of new features, thus making it speedier and less clunky.
A recent demonstration at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, touted the new iPhone app opening roughly twice as fast as the older version. Photos and comments are now loading faster as well, and users can now "like" comments on photos - a feature that was not available in the previous version of the mobile app.
According to Facebook mobile product manager Mick Johnson, programmers also removed some less-frequently used features, such as viewing the app horizontally, in order to help speed it up.
On the outside, the new Facebook for iOS app does not look notably different from previous versions, but the real changes lie in the core code within the application itself. Instead of being wrapped around an HTML5 mobile web view, Facebook for iOS is now written in Objective-C, the native codebase of iOS. This adds great improvements to the app's overall responsiveness, allowing it to load faster. Users can now navigate more easily, and the app no longer pauses when trying to load more news items or going to a different user page.
Visual differences are more notable on the iPad, especially as Facebook Timeline is finally working. Likes and comments also appear more seamlessly, notifications arrive in real-time and are easier to access, and one of the best parts is the ability to see newsfeed updates in real time. Facebook 5.0 for iOS feels like a solid iPad app. The new Facebook for iOS app is available for free from Apple's App Store.
The mobile segment is Facebook's biggest challenge, but also its biggest opportunity, as its mobile user base has seen the most explosive growth. Facebook had 543 million users at the end of June who accessed the site with a phone or tablet, marking a 67 percent increase from the 325 million users a year ago. Facebook's overall user base also grew 29 percent over the same time period, reaching 955 million.
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