About Face

The iOS facebook app blows, at least on my iPhone 4 (not S). It takes forever to start up and then forever to load the news feed. Then the other day I was looking to free up some storage space on my phone and discovered that the facebook app was taking up almost 500 megs of space. What it was doing with that space I have no idea. The only data that I can think of that facebook deals in that requires that kind of space are photos and videos, and given that it’s probably rare that a Facebook user views a photo or video more than once I can’t think of a good reason for the app to be caching them.

So for kicks the other day I loaded the facebook mobile site in Safari. Now on my phone Safari takes a while to open, but it still opens faster than facebook’s app. Then the news feed loaded faster as well. Poking around the mobile site I find that it appears to have feature parity with the app; they even look the same modulo some browser chrome. There are a few things that you can tap on that cause a new page to load, then when you hit the browser’s back button to get back to the news feed you end up back at the top instead of where you were. That’s annoying, but I’m figuring out which things to watch out for and open them in a new window. Plus, I’ve had the same thing happen in the app as well, just less frequently.

That’s the only downside that I’ve found; otherwise there’s wins all over the place. The storage footprint is negligible (just some javascript caching). It seems to work faster. It’s much easier to send articles I find in my news feed to Instapaper. With the app I’d have to open the article in the in-app browser and then send it Safari so that I could use the Instapaper bookmarklet. Now I’m already opening the article in Safari so I don’t have to load it twice. Really I don’t understand why Facebook is bothering with their app other than “people want apps”.

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