Facebook announced a shedload of new features today at F8, a conference for its developers. The new features include a “Like” button for mobile apps, the ability for apps to “deep-link” to things inside other apps—cross-functionality that today usually requires people to exit one app and navigate through another—and the ability to log in to third-party apps “anonymously,” which in reality is the ability only to decide what specific information you share with other apps (thanks a lot, Facebook). As expected, the company also announced a mobile ad network.
Next week at f8, Facebook will unveil Facebook Audience Network, its mobile ad network that will let developers target both standard banners and custom ad units with Facebook’s vast trove of personal data, according to multiple sources. It could let developers monetize, advertisers buy more mobile impressions than News Feed can fit, and Facebook earn money without cluttering its own apps with more ads.
Facebook began testing a mobile ad network in 2012. Because it was just a targeting layer on top of existing ad networks that it had to split revenue with, margins weren’t high enough so Facebook paused it to focus on its native monetization efforts.
Then in September 2013 it announced it was rebooting mobile ad network tests and this time it would work directly with advertisers and publishers (apps that host the ads) which would let it keep more of the bounty. On Facebook’s Q1 2014 earnings call, COO Sheryl Sandberg mentioned these ad network tests saying “Our initial efforts show a lot of promise and we’ve gotten good feedback from marketers.” This week, Re/code’s Mike Isaac reported that Facebook would officially launch the ad network at its f8 developer conference next week.
Facebook declined to comment, but I can now confirm Isaac’s report and have discovered more details about the project, including that it’s named Facebook Audience Network (FAN). It will offer both simple and custom ways for advertisers and other developers to harness the power of Facebook’s ad targeting data across the mobile app market.