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.
Considering Facebook’s evident re-focus on the mobile space, this move certainly makes plenty of sense. The traditional iOS Facebook experience has been problematically characterized by a marring sense of sluggishness, glitches, and frustration. With native Objective-C, however, the app will take full advantage of the iPhone’s hardware, and should respond in a much quicker manner.
Of the utmost interest to this equation, however, is Facebook’s well-documented investment in HTML5. Having just launched its HTML5-driven App Center in recent weeks, the reconstruction of its core mobile app in a native, non-HTML-driven language screams of contradiction.
Still, regardless of any problematic consumer-facing rhetoric, I remain encouraged by Facebook’s attitude toward the mobile space. Although its various efforts have far from reignited my active usage of the social networking behemoth, it’s always positive to see large entities re-addressing their own problems.