Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a talk this evening hoped to address the persistent rumors of a Facebook-branded phone. He expanded on the original denials and stressed that the social network wasn't trying to build hardware or get especially deep integration. Facebook wants to be a platform and not the device itself, Zuckerberg said to TechCrunch.
"Our whole strategy is not to build any specific device or integration or anything like that," he said. "Because we’re not trying to compete with Apple or the Droid or any other hardware manufacturer for that matter... We’re trying to build a social layer for everything. Basically we’re trying to make it so that every app everywhere can be social whether it’s on the web, or mobile, or other devices."
Trying to compete with an actual phone would discourage partners that build their own software, the executive said.
Long-term plans would have Facebook eventually transcend the web on mobile, since it would have ways to hook a social layer into apps without having to turn to a browser. Examples might include a single sign-on using a service such as Facebook Connect or tools such as Instant Personalization, which auto-customizes a site based on the content on display.
Zuckerberg added that much of the planning at the company was about integrating as deeply as possible. Apple and other ompanies that are "hard to penetrate" may only get a limited amount of Facebook tie-ins, such as contact sync, but Google's Android and INQ's basic phones could get more thorough looks. HTML5 would be a catch-all for platforms like BlackBerry, where there's less interest in deeper support.
He theorized that Facebook might try for an OS of its own in a decade, but he didn't expect the company to ever have a direct hand in hardware. It would take a long time to get the experience needed for an OS and would have to commit too many resources. No talks have ever gotten to the point of a collaborative project like Google's work with HTC on the Nexus One. Most discussions have only been superficial, such as giving permission to Apple to use Facebook in ads.