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Facebook releases long-awaited iPad app

Facebook released its long-awaited iPad app on Monday and introduced support for social games on the mobile versions of its online service. The dual announcements plug two key holes in Facebook's product offerings and could provide a way for Facebook to generate revenue from the more than 350 million users who access its service on mobile devices every month.

Facebook said that the mobile versions of its website will now offer tighter integration with third-party social games and applications. Those games, such as Zynga's Farmville, are extremely popular among Facebook users who access the service on their PCs. Similar to the experience on a PC, Facebook users on mobile devices such as Apple's iPhone and Android smartphones will receive alerts in their newsfeed when their friends play certain games or invite them to play along with them.

Facebook's mobile service will also offer bookmarks within the website of a user's favorite games, for quick access. Many of those games offer users the ability to purchase virtual goods - such as additional equipment or clothing to enhance the experience in a game - using Facebook's special so-called Credits currency. Facebook takes a 30 per cent cut of the revenue from those transactions.

The company said it would require third-party app developers to support Credits in the mobile versions of their games that interact with Facebook. The rule only applies to games aimed at users of the Facebook website developed using HTML5 technology and accessed through a standard browser. Facebook said the specialised iPhone app version of its service would not support its Credits currency, in accordance with Apple's terms of service.

The new version of Facebook for Apple's popular iPad tablet has been rumored on industry blogs for months. Facebook said the iPad app will offer enhanced photo-viewing capabilities and messaging capabilities.

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