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Facebook CEO promises 'something awesome' to launch next week

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised the company will "launch something awesome" the week of July 4, with insiders speculating the new feature is optimized for mobile or tablet devices. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Zuckerberg said the project was developed at Facebook's 40-person Seattle office, the source of previous mobile initiatives including the unified mobile website introduced in March. A Facebook spokesperson declined to offer further details.

TechCrunch speculates Facebook will introduce a new mobile photo sharing application in the vein of services like Instagram or Path. Based on roughly 50 MB of images and project documents obtained by TechCrunch in mid-June, the app--known internally as either "Hovertown" or "WithPeople"--is built on top of Facebook's social graph, and it appears to exist as a standalone solution. Screenshots indicate users will be able to tag friends and locations.

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TechCrunch adds Facebook will not unveil its much-discussed HTML5-based mobile platform optimized for Apple's iPhone and iPad but designed to circumvent the App Store distribution channel, giving Facebook far greater control over the user experience. Known internally as Project Spartan, the platform will initially target Apple's mobile Safari browser, but over time will expand to other operating systems, including Google's Android. The mobile web solution will include a drop-down menu featuring various Facebook and partner applications--clicking an app loads it from the appropriate server, complete with a Facebook wrapper that integrates key social media functions. Sources say Project Spartan is still weeks away from completion and was not developed in Seattle.

Insiders say it is also "highly unlikely" Facebook will introduce its social networking application optimized for Apple's iPad. Last month, The New York Times reported Facebook's free iPad app has been in production for over a year, evolving through a series of design iterations. People who have seen the app say its user experience is tailored for the iPad's touchscreen interface, with revamped Facebook Chat and Facebook Groups features. Facebook also will unveil new full-screen photo and video-sharing tools. Sources indicate that Facebook additionally plans to retool its mobile website to accommodate the iPad form factor--one person said the site is not intended to compete with Facebook's iPhone and iPad apps, but will "supplement these experiences."