Slightly more than half of Facebook Inc.’s monthly users, or 425 million, access the social networking site today from tablet or smartphone. That’s impressive, but then you find out later in Facebook’s IPO filing that it gets absolutely zero of its $3.7 billion revenue from mobile.
Let’s go through the filing in order of good news to bad. Facebook said in today’s SEC filing that mobile is one of its five key, high-level strategies.
“We are devoting substantial resources to developing engaging mobile products and experiences for a wide range of platforms, including smartphones and feature phones. In addition, we are working across the mobile industry with operators, hardware manufacturers, operating system providers, and developers to improve the Facebook experience on mobile devices and make Facebook available to more people around the world. We believe that mobile usage is critical to maintaining user growth and engagement over the long term.”
We also learn that 425 million out of Facebook’s 845 million monthly users [MAUs} in December 2011 accessed the site from a mobile device:
We anticipate that the rate of growth in mobile users will continue to exceed the growth rate of our overall MAUs for the foreseeable future, in part due to our focus on developing mobile products to encourage mobile usage of Facebook. Although the substantial majority of our mobile users also access and engage with Facebook on personal computers where we display advertising, our users could decide to increasingly access our products primarily through mobile devices.
We do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven.
The reason there’s no meaningful revenue is because Facebook doesn’t display any mobile ads today. Besides the unknown of how much mobile ad revenue Facebook will be able to generate, there’s also the unknowns of competing with the likes of Google:
“Certain competitors, including Google, could use strong or dominant positions in one or more markets to gain competitive advantage against us in areas where we operate including: by integrating competing social networking platforms or features into products they control such as search engines, web browsers, or mobile device operating systems; by making acquisitions; or by making access to Facebook more difficult.”
Facebooks’ frenemies also include Apple. Cupertino’s demands to be cut in on any in-app advertising/sales action as well as its own mobile advertising plans might lead it into overt conflict with Facebook.
“We are dependent on the interoperability of Facebook with popular mobile operating systems that we do not control, such as Android and iOS, and any changes in such systems that degrade our products’ functionality or give preferential treatment to competitive products could adversely affect Facebook usage on mobile devices.”
This must be why Facebook made the seemingly-strange decision to cozy up to Microsoft several years ago, including taking investment money from Redmond. So how might Facebook go after mobile revenues in the future?
“We currently do not show ads or directly generate any meaningful revenue from users accessing Facebook through our mobile products, but we believe that we may have potential future monetization opportunities such as the inclusion of sponsored stories in users’ mobile News Feeds.“
“Our Payments system enables users to purchase virtual or digital goods from developers and third-party websites by using debit and credit cards, PayPal, mobile phone payments, gift cards or other methods. We have also extended our Payments infrastructure to support mobile web apps on certain mobile platforms.“