Facebook’s free iPad application arrived Oct. 10 after more than a year in the making and some controversy over its delay.
Users who install the application, available here from Apple’s App Store, can use their fingers to scroll through their News Feed, or simply swipe to zoom through photo albums and pinch a single picture to zoom in for a closer look.
Messages and notifications appear at the top of the screen, while applications, games and lists live in the left-hand rail, as they do on the desktop version of Facebook.
Users may conduct Facebook Chats from the iPad, and watch high-resolution videos inline, record video and stream video to devices that support Apple’s Airplay streaming media software.
The bigger story isn’t the app but why it took so long to see daylight. The iPad appeared in April 2010. Even Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) launched its Facebook application for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet this past spring, yet this is the first native Facebook app for the iPad created by the social network’s engineers.
Facebook CTO Bret Taylor told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook launched the app now because it was done.
Taylor’s claim would surely be disputed by former Facebook for iPad engineer Jeff Verkoeyen, the application’s former lead developer. Verkoeyen said he left Facebook for Google after the company failed to launch the iPad app he said has been done since May.
His report spurred speculation that Apple and its exacting application submission policies were to blame, or that Apple’s jousts with Facebook over licensing terms and other issues continued to smolder.
Ideally, Facebook for iPad means the 30 million or so iPad owners, many of whom are likely to count toward a fraction of Facebook’s 800 million worldwide users, will be able to enjoy a better user experience from the native app.
But it isn’t turning out that way for many people, who complained about bugs in the software. Early users claim it takes forever to load and crashes often, among other issues. Facebook said the bugs were to be expected and it’s working on them.
In other Facebook news, the company made its Facebook Platform mobile, which means users will be able to access and manage their Facebook apps and games from Apple mobile devices.
Bookmarks, Requests and News Feed, which were previously available only to Websites and apps on Facebook.com via a desktop Web browser, will now be available on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as Facebook’s mobile Website.
Moreover, Facebook has helped Flixster, Gilt Groupe, Electronic Arts, Moblyng, Storm8, Wooga and Zynga create HTML5 versions of some of their apps and game titles that will work in mobile Web browsers.
While Facebook Credits, the company’s virtual currency platform, is also now available for mobile Web apps, they may not be used to buy virtual goods from native Apple iOS apps or mobile Web apps that are running within a Facebook iOS app.
Apple is forcing users to purchase separate virtual currency through its own in-app payment system.