Facebook App Faster
June 29, 2012

The Facebook App Could Get Faster

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Google isn´t the only company who is only half-way admitting their sluggish mobile performance. (See: Project Butter)

If the two Facebook engineers who spoke with the New York Times are telling the truth, the social networking app will also be getting a speed boost. This increase of speed won´t come easily, as it´s rumored the entire app will be rebuilt from the ground up.

Facebook is one of the world´s most popular mobile apps, scoring big points on both the Android and Apple app stores. For all its acclaim and popularity, it´s also dreadfully slow.

The Times had a chat with two Facebook engineers to get to the bottom of this extreme sluggishness and came away with some very interesting information: The app could be getting much faster next month. The engineers asked not to be named, as they aren´t authorized to speak about the new improvements. (Also, because it´s likely they´d get fired if they did.)

The Two Engineers That Could spoke specifically about their iOS app, saying they´ve rebuilt it from the ground up with one goal in mind: Make the thing faster.

Facebook, of course, had no comment about the rumored speed boost.

One of the engineers got down to the nitty-gritty, saying the new app relied heavily on programming language Objective-C, the primary language used to build iOS apps.

Other parts of the app were built using HTML5, a web-based language.

The current app, on the other hand, is not much more than a web-browser built inside an Objective-C wrapper, according to the Two Engineers That Could. The Times said this kind of programming was akin to “putting the engine of a Smart Car in the body of a Ferrari.” An apt comparison.

So, rather than depend on the web to serve up your images, likes and pokes, Objective-C relies on the iPhone´s hardware and software to do this heavy lifting, taking full advantage of those A4 and A5 chips. Built this way, the app only has to pull essential information from the web and then apply it to the Objective-C framework. It´s almost enough to make you wonder why Facebook took so long to program their app this way“¦.

Late last year, Dave Fetterman, an engineering manager at Facebook, told developers they chose to build apps this way so they could reuse code to be used on multiple platforms, like Android.

It´s a nod towards efficiency, but not necessarily towards usability.

Now that Facebook is offering up more content and features to their users, the HTML5 way of doing things has become more of a burden than a blessing, so to speak.

Nick Bilton, the author of the Times piece, said he had an opportunity to play with the new Facebook app. In his words, the app is “Fast. Blazing fast.”

The app is apparently being tested internally and could be updated this summer, if not next month.

Though completely rebuilt, the Two Engineers said the app would still look exactly the same as the current version.

Such a revision to their iOS app would also be beneficial as the company continues to focus on mobile as a part of their continued growth. With a new public status, they need to be moving forward as often as they can.