Facebook Debuts Audience Network and Anonymous Login

Facebook chief executive (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the f8 global developer conference yesterday with a slew of new product announcements. Most notable was Audience Network, a mobile ad platform that will have the ability to serve ads to third-party apps.

The company has been experimenting with a mobile ad network since January and yesterday’s confirmation made it official. “We’ve done a lot of work already in the past years to help you build and grow your apps. This is really the first time that we are going to help you monetize on mobile,” said Zuckerberg.

Audience Network is hoped to make it easier for advertisers to target the right apps with the most relevant experiences. Deborah Liu, director of product management and platform monetization at Facebook, said the social network “has the best targeting system in the world” and clients can now benefit from it. 

That means Facebook’s app clients don’t have to hire sales teams, nor find out who is in the right audience, create reporting, or figure out measurement, Liu noted. The social network will do it all for them.

According to Mark DiMassimo, CEO of digital ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein, Facebook’s move “marks an aggressive step into the mobile advertising industry, allowing the social network to expand the hyper-targeted reach of its network into the mobile app space, providing an offering currently unmatched in the market.”

Advertisers will be able to better target in-app ads based on who the user actually is, rather than just a profile of who they think the user is, DiMassimo says, adding that this will be particularly important for apps in the dating, travel, employment, banking, food, and shopping industries.

“The one thing that Facebook has over everyone else is that its users voluntarily submit information about themselves: their ‘like’ history, relationship status, sexual orientation, attitudinal behavior, etc. For years, advertisers have been speculating how Facebook would use the treasure trove of data, and [now] we will see Facebook put this information into action outside its own network,” DiMassimo adds.

While the move seems like a bold one for Facebook, there is no doubt the company is entering a competitive space. As well as Google’s AdMob and Apple’s iAds platforms, there are a number of smaller firms also trying to take a slice of the pie by serving ads to mobiles and tablets.

Anonymous Login

Other product announcements made at f8 include Anonymous Login, which gives users the ability to decide what permissions they want to give to an app before signing in, limiting the data shared with third parties.

Zuckerberg referred to Anonymous Login as “a hassle-free way to log in and try apps.” Users don’t have to remember usernames and passwords and can decide later if they want to share any additional information once they understand more about the app.

“The idea here is that even if you don’t want the app to know who you are yet, you can still have a streamlined experience without filling in fields,” said Zuckerberg. 

For his part, Larry Drebes, CEO of customer profile data management company Janrain, said Anonymous Login is “Facebook’s answer to the death of cookies. Cookies just don’t work for mobile.”

Facebook is testing Anonymous Login with a few developers and says it plans to open it up to more in the coming months.

More Control

In a further move meant to inspire more users to sign in and trust apps, Zuckerberg unveiled a new version of Facebook Login that gives users line-by-line control over the information apps receive. Users can select the data apps get by checking and unchecking categories of information, such as email addresses or birthdays. In addition, the new Facebook Login won’t post to Facebook without permission.

“One of the things we’ve heard over and over is that people want more control over how we share their information, especially with apps,” Zuckerberg said. “If people don’t have the tools they need to feel comfortable, that’s bad for them and you. If we prevent people from having good personalized experiences and trying out new things, that hurts you and prevents you from getting new customers.”

Facebook says the new login will be rolling out over the next few months.

Last but Not Least

Facebook also revealed it would be creating a tool to add its “like” button to apps. This will allow users to highlight and share content they had seen via the social network. This should drive more traffic to the third-party apps as well as provide Facebook with more data to target its ads.

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