Today’s interview is with Cyril Moutran the co-founder of Oecoway, the makers of Friendly for Facebook. We’ll learn a little about the Friendly team and what motivates them, as well as diving into a discussion of the future of Facebook on the iPad.
Look forward to some interesting insights into developing successful iPad apps, along with some discussion of the recent furore over Twitter’s announcement to developers. We love the developers that produce the amazing software we review, and hopefully this will be a great way for you to meet the names and faces behind the apps that you use every day!
I hope you enjoy it!
Tell us a little about the Friendly team. How many of you are there and where are you based?
Oecoway, the company behind the hugely popular Friendly for Facebook iPad app, is a small boot-strapped startup. I started the company with a friend of mine, Stephane Philipakis.
We work as a small distributed team, two of us from Silicon Valley, one in Los Angeles, one in New York, and one in Paris. These days tools like Github and Skype really make it easy to work with the best talents, no matter where they are located.
What drove you to create Friendly; how soon after the launch of the iPad did you spot the gap in the market?
Stephane and I stood in line to get the first iPad. Our first idea was to build an iPad version of the social monitoring service we were working on at the time. Being both big Facebook users, however, we right away felt the need for a Facebook experience designed for iPad. We launched the first version of Friendly for Facebook in July 2010, and it quickly took off.
What is your background in and how long have you been immersed in the world of iOS development?
Oecoway’s background is in the web and social space. Before Friendly for Facebook, we ran a social media monitoring service call Twazzup, and also our own social network called Yokway.
We came to iOS development about 2 years ago, realizing the dramatic shift touch devices would have for mobile and casual computing.
Friendly 3.5 has just been released. How long have you and the team been working on that update?
We actively listen to our users using our Facebook and support pages, and come up with updates every 3-4 weeks. Friendly for Facebook 3.5 took a little longer, as we’ve been laying out the foundations for our next major release, Friendly for Facebook 4.0.
In just the past 30 days, over 500,000 photos were uploaded to Facebook via the Friendly for Facebook app. In 3.5, we are introducing a new built-in photo editor that makes it easy to enhance photos and edit your Facebook profile picture. We also take advantage of the new iPad 2, which lets users directly take pictures from Friendly for Facebook.
There’s a healthy amount of competition in the category of iPad Facebook apps. What, in your opinion, keeps Friendly at the number one spot?
We focused from day one on optimizing the Facebook experience for iPad, to take full advantage of its large multi touch display. Friendly for Facebook is better for browsing Facebook photos, chatting with friends, reading your news feed. We also made it possible for users to upload photos from their iPad to Facebook, and easily download Facebook photos onto their iPad.
Another very popular feature is our multi-account support, so friends/family members can easily switch between accounts when sharing an iPad. Additionally, we take into account our customers’ feedback when deciding how to improve its functionality, and are continuously releasing new features that enhance their Facebook browsing experience on the iPad.
Facebook seems reluctant to enter the world of iPad development; why do you think this is?
I think Facebook is still working on a comprehensive tablet strategy, and it will take time. But they have time, because they have platform apps from early movers like Oecoway that are filling the gap, and that they can learn from.
As the iPad, and tablets in general, increase in availability and popularity do you think Facebook could eventually be swayed into developing their own native app?
I do not have insights on Facebook plans, but it is likely that Facebook will eventually offer a native alternative to their website. This said, if you look at the iPhone platform, where Facebook has a very good app, you still have a very healthy ecosystem of Facebook Platform Apps that enhance the Facebook experience.
Do you think the recent request from Twitter to developers (that they should stop building third-party Twitter clients) is an unnerving trend that could have an impact on iPad Facebook applications, should Facebook ever enter the fray?
Facebook and Twitter are quite different in that regard. Facebook has been having a very clear developer policy, through their Facebook Platform. Again, if you look at the iPhone, you can see many client applications using the Facebook Platform to enhance the Facebook experience.
Are you considering developing for any of the competing tablet platforms (PlayBook, Xoom, and Galaxy Tab)? What do you think about the iPad’s prospects for 2011?
We think the iPad prospects are extremely strong for 2011. In 2010, Apple sold over 17 million iPads, but in reality they could have sold more, as toward the end of the year, consumers were already waiting for the iPad 2.
We expect Apple to sell over 40 million iPads in 2011, making Apple, by far, the overwhelming market leader for tablet devices. We are considering developing for other tablet platforms, but don’t expect strong growth in that sector before 2012.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a single piece of advice from your experience of developing an app for the iPad, what would it be?
- For design, think in fingers, not pixels: an iPad is 9×12 fingers.
- Stackoverflow is one of the best resources if you have a code level question.
Is there one app that you couldn’t live without?
Besides Friendly for Facebook, I would say Netflix. I’m a big movie fan; Netflix is magical. I also love the NPR (National Public Radio) app.
Thanks for taking the time out to chat to us!