Facebook debuts speedier Android app

The new app dumps HTML5 in favor of native Android code

Facebook has launched a new version of its app for Android smartphones that promises users speedier access to their messages, timeline and news.

The app marks a rewrite of several major parts of the Facebook software to break reliance on HTML5.

"We rebuilt several of Facebook for Android's core features in native code, including news feed and Timeline, to create a faster experience whether you're opening the app, looking at photos, or interacting with friends," wrote Frank Qixing Du, a Facebook Android engineer, in a posting on the company's engineering blog. "Now, you can comment and like a story more quickly, and photo loading is optimized to be much faster. We also built a new, automatically updated story banner to bubble up the newest stories, no matter where you are in news feed."

Facebook had been relying on a mix of Android code running on the phone and Web pages coded in HTML5 to look like app screens. But earlier this year Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was changing all that.

"I think the biggest mistake we made as a company was betting on HTML5 instead of native," Zuckerberg said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in September.

The result will be an app that opens noticeably quicker and is twice as fast when browsing photos and opening the timeline, Facebook said Thursday.

The new app, Facebook for Android Version 2.0, is available for download in the Google Play store.

Facebook expects further improvements in the future. "The infrastructure in place will let us continue to make the app even faster, smoother, and feature-rich," it said.

A rewritten version of the iOS app for Apple phones was launched earlier this year.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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