Will Facebook become the default mobile experience for dumb phones?
Facebook has made an interesting play with the launch of 0.facebook.com, a mobile site that delivers a fast, stripped-down version of the social network. The key advantage: It costs nothing to access the site -- hence the zero at the front of the URL -- if your mobile provider has partnered with Facebook. (No U.S. carriers are part of the partnership.)
Only the site itself is free -- users must pay data charges to visit any external site and to view Facebook photos. "For some people," TechCrunch noted, "0.facebook.com will probably be their only Facebook experience -- it may even be the only mobile site they're accessing from their cell phones."
The text-based mobile site will help Facebook muscle out international social networking competitors and insert itself into the mobile lives of people who carry feature (or "dumb") phones. (Such phones still outnumber smart phones in the U.S., though Nielsen projects that will change by the end of 2011.)
Mobile phone providers will benefit by charging for data when users want to see Facebook photos and read links posted by their friends.
For a while now, links within the Facebook iPhone app have opened within the app. That creates a seamless user experience and increases the likelihood that users will continue on to other Facebook content when they're done reading the linked material.
Both moves show how Facebook aims to be the door to the mobile Web, which raises the stakes for publishers who use the service to reach their audience.
"We hope that even more people will discover the mobile Internet with Facebook as a result," wrote Sid Murlidhar on Facebook's blog. Does that sound like AOL?