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Facebook prepping faster iPhone app using Objective-C code

Attention iPhone-toting Facebook fiends, you'll soon be able to check out your friends' wedding photos and stalk your ex-partners more efficiently, as the social network's iOS app is about to get a significant speed boost, according to a new report.

The New York Times, citing two unnamed Facebook engineers, reported that Facebook is completely revamping its iOS application to optimise speed. The latest version of the app is being tested by Facebook developers and is expected to be released next month.

But don't get too excited that the new app will have any cool new features. It'll look exactly like the old one — but will just work faster.

"I had the opportunity to see the as-yet unreleased iPhone application, and it is fast. Blazing fast," Nick Bilton, New York Times technology columnist, wrote in the report.

The new app will be quicker because it has been built primarily using a coding language called Objective-C, which is also used to build many other iOS apps. In contrast, the existing Facebook app uses Objective-C for its shell while many of its components are built using HTML5. The current approach is essentially like "putting the engine of a Smart Car in the body of a Ferrari," the newspaper noted.

Applications built predominantly using HTML5 pull images and content from the web into the application. Objective-C, on the other hand, is speedier because it has to collect less information from the web.

Facebook initially chose to build its apps using HTML5 so it could reuse the code across multiple platforms. This approach made it easier for developers, but sometimes caused the app to load at a snail's pace, to the chagrin of users.

Meanwhile, Facebook on Wednesday rolled out a new Open Graph feature to let users follow stories people post within Facebook applications. Users will be able to get these updates on their news feed without having to add a person as their friend or subscribe to their full feed.

"For example, a person can follow their favourite restaurant critic from within a food review app on Facebook," Yariv Sadan, software engineer at Facebook, wrote in a post on his site's blog. "Content a person publishes within your app will be displayed in the follower's News Feed even if they aren't Facebook friends."