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Developers Think Facebook Is Doomed

Evan Niu, CFA
September 25, 2012

Mobile platforms these days rely on their developer communities to stock their digital shelves with engaging and compelling content. Appcelerator, which offers cross-platform development tools for building native apps, teamed up with researcher IDC to survey its large community of developers in an effort to gauge where developers see platforms in the future.

I also had a chance to speak with Michael King, Appcelerator's director of enterprise strategy, to discuss the results. The survey had over 5,500 respondents, a meaningful sample size, and here's what developers think is on the horizon.

Facebook will lose in mobile
A strikingly large proportion -- two-thirds of nearly 4,800 respondents for this question -- believe that eventually Facebook (Nasdaq: FB  ) will lose out in mobile, disrupted by a mobile-centric social startup that focuses on mobile computing from the get-go. The market for mobile social apps is burgeoning, and Facebook could be caught off guard by a smaller rival.

On this one, I'm going to have to disagree with the results. Facebook's weakness in mobile has historically been tied to its monetization, not so much its consumer appeal. On top of that, it has network effects that no one, not even Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , can compete with. Mark Zuckerberg makes it clear that Facebook is now primarily a mobile company above all else, and I think the company will be able to fend off meaningful threats.

HTML5 isn't working
Echoing Zuckerberg's admission that pursuing HTML5 was the "biggest strategic mistake" that Facebook has made, an overwhelming percentage weren't happy with HTML5 on numerous important fronts.

Neutral to Dissatisfied


1. Monetization (83.4%)

1. Cross-development capabilities (83.4%)

2. Security (81.8%)

2. Immediate updates (81.8%)

3. Fragmentation (75.4%)


4. Performance (72.4%)


5. Timeliness of new updates (67.9%)


6. User experience (62%)


7. Distribution control (60.3%)


Ranking developer satisfaction of HTML5 mobile apps of 4,700 respondents. Sources: Appcelerator and IDC.

Facebook recently transitioned its app for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iOS from HTML5 to its native language and has seen massive improvements in performance. This survey took place before Zuckerberg's comments at TechCrunch Disrupt.

As if there was any doubt, this shows just how dead wrong ACI Research analyst and CEO Edward Zabitsky is with his bearish call on Apple. Last year he predicted that all mobile platforms were becoming commoditized as HTML5 mobile apps would herald in a new age of open ecosystems -- one that's hardware-agnostic and thus people would stop buying iDevices and Apple's empire would crumble and fall into the Pacific Ocean. Less than six months ago he reiterated his "sell short" rating and $270 price target. Needless to say, that call isn't working out so well.

King explains there are two flawed assumptions about HTML5 that hold