Facebook is set to move beyond its mobile application strategy as it plans to become a stand-alone mobile platform, which developers can distribute mobile apps with, says iSuppli.

Already a leader in non-mobile web applications, Facebook offers more than 550,000 applications and supports 1m developers. According to the research group, the social network’s aim is to offer something similar on mobile (most third-party Facebook apps are not currently available on mobile).

Facebook’s mobile growth remains strong. It now counts more than 150m active mobile users (out of more than 400m total users), compared with 100m in February 2010.

“Mobile will continue to play a key role in growing Facebook’s overall user base. In May 2010, it launched Facebook 0, a text only version of the social network aimed at mobile users in developing countries with lower-end phones and limited access to mobile data. Facebook has deals with more than 60 network operators in 50 developing countries to provide the service for free,” said iSuppli analyst Jack Kent.

According to him, while Facebook will likely remain the leading social network on mobile, a number of new players will force it to innovate. Foursquare, the location-based mobile social network that offers a gaming element and check-in functionality, is most prevalent of these new entrants. While Foursquare‘s 2m user base is tiny compared to Facebook, its implementation of location specific data is likely to be similar to Facebook’s forthcoming local features.

“Facebook’s drive towards creating its own mobile platform may cause a headache for developers who will be forced to develop for another set of APIs (application program interfaces) in the already fragmented mobile sector. The prospect of tapping into a 500m-strong social graph could however prove enticing for many, as is already the case for many websites that integrate Facebook’s APIs,” said Kent.

He thinks that having previously focused on developing native applications for mobile operating systems (including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android), Facebook’s new strategy will likely focus on mobile web based applications that give it greater control over its ecosystem and the user experience it provides.

“For Facebook, offering its own platform for mobile web applications will help drive its core advertising and microtransaction business models. It will be able to serve ads and gain revenues from its Facebook Credits virtual currency, outside the realm of other mobile ad-networks and mobile application stores,” concluded the iSuppli analyst.

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