The Facebook app for iOS is a painful necessity. Despite being one of the most downloaded social networking apps in Apple’s App Store, it holds a measly 2 star rating. Why? Because it’s slow, abounding with ever-frustrating load screens.
But, according to inside information from two Facebook engineers, the New York Times reports that the iOS application is being rebuilt, from the ground up. And the best news is that it is optimized for speed.
The reason for the previous, rampant loading screens:
In late 2011, Dave Fetterman, an engineering manager at Facebook, told an audience at Facebook’s f8 developer conference that the company had chosen to build its apps predominantly using HTML5 so that it could take advantage of reusing programming code across multiple mobile platforms.
This proved to work for developers at Facebook, reducing the amount of work they had to do across mobile apps, but has backfired for users, who have seen the app stretched to its limits as more functionality has been added over time.
The changes with the new app:
One of the Facebook engineers said the new application has been built primarily using Objective-C, the programming language used to build applications for iOS. Many of the components of the current version of the Facebook app are built using HTML5, the Web-based markup language.
The current version of the app is essentially an Objective-C shell with a Web browser inside. When it comes to speed, this is like putting the engine of a Smart Car in the body of a Ferrari.
Applications that are predominantly HTML5 render most of the components of an app as a Web page, pulling images and content from the Web directly into the application. Objective-C takes the opposite approach, taking full advantage of the hardware in the iPhone and then building most of the functionality directly into the application so it has to collect less information from the Web.
The NY Times reporter than went on to say that he had the opportunity to test the application and it was “blazing fast.” The good news: that update should be coming this summer. The bad news: it’s the only change to the app. The focus here is optimizing speed—do not expect the design or UI to be overhauled.