For some reason a series of techno-pundits have gotten themselves worked into a lather over Facebook Home, a new Android Skin that basically attempts to merge Facebook with every facet of your Android phone.
It isn’t quite an app, and it certainly isn’t a new build of Android (like the Nook or Kindle Fire did). It is quite boring.
Don’t worry, I suspect it will pass in the night like the rest of Facebook’s weird experiments in this area.
HTC First will be the first phone to use Facebook Home (it will then be available as an app for all other Android users), and it basically makes your Facebook feeds appear on your homepage – plus a few other minor tweaks.
Unfortunately for most, Android and Apple’s notification bars take care of this quite nicely already, as do the apps on both platforms.
HTC recently unveiled Blinkfeed on its new HTC One phone, which essentially does the same thing – it produces a live newsfeed with your tweets and Facebook posts interspersed (similar to the Flipbook app).
Do we really need to go any further than that? Not really, but Facebook has tons of money and has been eager to make moves in the mobile space, since it’s botched public listing last year. The problem for Facebook back then was proving it’s monetisation abilities – namely, most couldn’t figure out how Facebook would make any money. It has resolved that somewhat, by filling most users home screens with tailored ads (with the requisite privacy issues along the way) – Facebook Home is apparently the next step. Analysts remain a bit disappointed because they have been rumour-mongering about a Facebook phone for nearly two years (I don’t include the previous HTC phones that had Facebook buttons on them in this summation, obviously), and this might’ve seemed like a cop out to them. It is. But then again, a Facebook phone would make little sense either.
At launch, it will only be available on some Android 4.0+ devices (from April 12), such as the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, which also gives it a limited market share to work with too.
We need to be honest here, Facebook Home (unless it is drastically revised before release) is simply a glorified launcher for Facebook that spams your mobile’s home page. Unless it came pre-installed on your device, I’d struggle to understand why any user would deliberately give up control of their phone in this way, even if they were the most Facebook-addicted user alive.
We don’t know yet, but given the company’s increasingly bitter feud with Twitter, I imagine Twitter and other competing platforms will be firmly placed in the background. We already know that mobile apps like Gmail, Google Maps, WhatsApp and Evernote are will still be there, but we may have to work harder to get to them. This stinks of anti-competitiveness to me.
Facebook appears to be attempting to build its own internet within the internet – a community users never need to leave (they can already IM chat, and send emails, and visit external websites inside Facebook) – and this stinks of the early days of the internet, where closed garden communities such as AOL stifled its growth. The sounds coming out of the Facebook team in recent years seem to be high-concept babble suggesting that they feel they can replace the entire internet with Facebook. I tell you right now, this is not happening. Least of all because of the company’s reputation for privacy invasion. Humans like to spread their risk.
Do users really want to surrender their entire mobile lives to Facebook, sidelining everything else? No. Anyone that suggests that the Google Android and the rest will be under any stress from this announcement are kidding themselves.