Facebook tries to crack mobile challenge with London R&D centre

Facebook will soon open its first engineering office outside of the United States with a new facility in London with a focus on mobile products. The new office will open as Facebook puts increased emphasis on improving its mobile applications and overall presence in mobile.

Facebook is looking to improve its mobile applications.

Facebook will initially recruit around two-dozen developers to the team, which will be lead by Philip Su, an engineer who joined the social network from Microsoft in 2010.

"Our team in London will start small, focusing on building a core of great engineers, and then grow over time and eventually focus on building products in key areas like mobile and platform," Su wrote in a company post on Facebook.

Su said the firm had decided on creating a London-based engineering office because of its "vibrant local startup community with lots of great technical talent." Su also said the office will "grow over time and eventually focus on building products in key areas like mobile and platform."

This new office will also have responsibility for attracting third-party app developers to use the Facebook mobile platform, a sector that is already heavily courted by Google, Apple and others.

Ahead of its initial public offering in May, Facebook detailed its shortcomings in monetising its presence in mobile. In securities filings at the time, Facebook explained that increasing its mobile base, and specifically the shift of users from the ad-supported Web version to its apps, could potentially hurt its business model and long-term revenue goals.

Facebook boasts more than 901 million users worldwide, up 33 percent from 680 million a year ago, with 488 million users accessing the site via mobile device each month. However, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in May that improving the social networking giant's mobile application is his "first priority" for 2012.

Facebook will need to address criticism of its mobile applications as "slow," "inconsistent" and having "tons of bugs," reports the Daily Telegraph.

Earlier this month Facebook extended its App Center recommendation hub to the UK roughly a month after launching the service in the U.S. market

Accessible via the Web as well as Facebook's native applications for Apple's  iOS and Google's Android, App Center is designed to spotlight the most compelling social applications, directly connecting an app's availability in the storefront to its overall quality. According to Facebook, App Center leverages a series of signals like user ratings and engagement to determine if an app is listed; apps that receive poor user ratings or fail to meet Facebook quality guidelines will not merit inclusion.

For more:
- see this Facebook post
- see this Wired article
- see this Daily Telegraph article

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