Go home, Facebook

April 5, 2013

    Facebook Home

    Is it an app? An operating system? A widget? A… launcher? Facebook Home may be all, or none, of those things. Like most things Facebook, the intentions are obscured by an in-your-face experience. The Android landscape has room for this kind of thing, and to be fair… it’s not a bad idea. For Facebook. For you and I, it may be trouble.

    Hardware

    When Facebook announced their Facebook Home… thing… on the HTC First, everyone was a bit befuddled by the device. It’s not special by any means. In fact, the phone hardware is dated. Facebook tried to spin it, commenting that screen size on Android devices was out of hand, amongst other things, but the truth is… the device is genius.

    A 4.3” screen (1280×720), 5MP Rear/1.5MP front cameras, 1.4GHz dual core snapdragon processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 2,000mAh battery. That sounds a lot like cutting-edge 18 months ago. The tech fan in us laughs, but think about it. A phone with those specs can’t cost much, and initial deals put the phone at $450 off-contract, or $99 with a two-year plan. The subsidized price alone will put the device into the hands of quite a few consumers.

    Let’s also be fair that most consumers don’t care much about speed and performance of their mobile device. Most people still marvel that their phone will deliver email, or browse the internet. People like features, and Facebook Home is just that.

    FaceBookAndroid

    Facebook hates loves Android

    Remember a few months ago, when Facebook did an about-face and began focusing on Android? We all figured it was simply a company realizing that Android was dominant, and their product for it was pretty bad. The Facebook teams seemed to love iOS, as that app was always superior to the Android variety.

    With Facebook Home, we finally understand the sudden shift in focus to Android. Facebook has long been searching for a way to get mobile users directly onto Facebook, or at least streamline the process. This… thing… they came out with yesterday is a stroke of genius for them. No more silly phones with special Facebook buttons. Now your phone… any phone, really… is Facebook.

    The Android issue

    Will ‘Android’ care? This is an interesting query. On one hand, a competing social media platform has effectively taken over a device, and perhaps more of them in the future. If you subscribe to the Andy Rubin way of thinking, Android needs more of this. To his mind, Android needs more entities making custom skins, launchers, and the like.

    I have to side with Andy, here. Android is open source, and available to anyone who would like to do this kind of thing. The real interest for Android, and by virtue Google, is the Play Store. If an Android device has a Play Store app, then Google stands to profit from it. Butchers don’t ask how you’re going to cook meat before selling it to you, and Google doesn’t ask how you’re going to use Android before letting you use it.

    Facebook Home

    Facebook NOW

    What struck me immediately about Facebook Home is the interface of it. Not the chat, but the cards that pop up. It reminded me of our favorite Google Search interface, Google Now.

    The difference here is that Facebook Home is really meant solely for Facebook, and has little to do with the rest of the world. While I initially considered it sublime, what then occurred to me the arrogance behind it. Facebook is asking you to live inside of their bubble, rather than visit it. Facebook is not suggesting you check-in from time to time, they’re demanding you involve yourself wholly. A social network that insists on your involvement. Frightening.

    We’re also left to wonder just what permissions this… thing… will want. If it asks for any access to your photos or contact info, I’d be more than cautious to allow that. Facebook has a terrible reputation for keeping your information safe, and Mark Zuckerberg has mocked those (including users) who trust him. It’s not so much about sharing information with services, it’s about a level of trust with what services you decide to share with.

    facebook_home_chat_heads_fullwidth

    Chat

    This is where Facebook Home both realizes its potential, and falls on its face. The chat function actually has a nice interface. Little chat bubbles are a fresh idea, and what looks to be the ability to move them about the screen is a nice touch.

    Then again, do you really want a chat notification in your face like that? While you can swipe the chat bubble away, it seems to come back when you switch screens. So, if you’re on YouTube and swipe a notification away, then go to Maps… it comes back? That seems obtrusive, more so than simply having the bubble. This feature could prove tiresome, and cause users to disable Facebook Home.

    We already have chat notifications that pop-up in the top bar, so why would I want a bubble taking up real estate on my screen? The ability to move it around is nice, but creates a layer of annoyance. Sometimes, you just don’t want to talk, you know? Sometimes… you just want to do your thing without Facebook bothering you. Whether they believe it or not, there is a life outside of Facebook.

    Services

    Facebook is a one-trick pony. They harp on staying connected, because that’s all they have to sell. There is no calendar feature to send you notifications on upcoming events, or a maps function. There is no internet search, or package delivery notification card.

    Those are Google services. Those services are courtesy of your Android device, not Facebook. Millions of people use Facebook to connect, and that’s great… but do that many people want the line between Facebook and the rest of the world blurred? Only time will tell. I happen to use Google+ quite a bit, but I wouldn’t want to have it in my face all the time.

    facebook-home-stock

    Conclusion

    In the days of Vaudeville, people called barkers would stand outside of the tent and loudly proclaim, or ‘bark’, that their show was the greatest you’ll ever see. Bearded ladies! A man who can bend himself into a pretzel! All you had to do was step inside the tent, and you could enjoy the world they had created for you.

    Facebook Home is no different. It’s an act, meant to lure you into the tent. Pictures from your stream float across the screen, while the faces of friends haunt your every in-app move. In using Facebook Home, you’ve placed yourself at the mercy of the show.

    You can turn the feature off, but let’s be honest… nobody is buying that phone for the hardware. It’s a middle-of-the-road device for the everyman, and that consumer is the Facebook user. That consumer is also the Android user, and Google has plenty of services (including social) built right in. Google also has better devices at a lower cost, so we’re left to wonder just what we’re buying with the HTC First… and buying into with Facebook Home.

    The term ‘immersive’ was tossed around at the launch, and is both accurate and daunting. Is Facebook so centric to your life that this… thing… becomes important? That’s really the question. For the Facebook users out there, the question becomes whether or not you want to drown in a sea of it when looking at your device, or if you want to simply visit. Facebook’s home is inside an app, not controlling my device.

    So, ask yourself… do you want to visit Grandma Gertrude and Aunt Matilda, or live with them? Staying connected is great, but being connected (literally) at the hip is another thing.

     

    Comments

    • le_lutin

      Can we try to refine the parameters of this debate?

      The question should be: “if you love facebook, is facebook home for you?”, because if you’re not even into Facebook you shouldn’t even bother evaluating this.

    • philnolan3d

      with the features and price it looks like it’s definitely aimed at the 14 year old crowd.

      • john

        Lack of common sense, rich dads, and plenty of ‘em…
        Smart move for Facebook?

      • z0phi3l

        But are 14yo still using facebook? From what I’ve heard the younger ones have moved to other platforms

        • MasterMuffin

          Me for example, but ALL my friends except for one are still using Facebook as #1. I deleted my Facebook app and don’t use it on mobile anymore, but sometimes when I’m bored and I’m on PC, I go to FB to check my friends stuff :)

      • Lowry Brooks

        We’ll I’m not using it. 14 year old and up (teens) have moved on more. Facebook is just a tool.

    • DoctorWho

      I am using facebook at least 1-2 hours a day and i do not need that kind of upgrade or start up to my screen and facebook is not my entire life as an android user i will not upgrade to facebook home app

      • Nate Swanner

        But if you had this.. thing… on your device, would you use it, or disable it? You’re a pretty heavy Facebook user (I think, I really don’t know what constitutes ‘heavy’ usage for social media), so this is aimed right at you.
        If Google+, which is where I spend my time, had this… I’d be rolling my eyes. I’m probably there as much as you are on Facebook.

        • DoctorWho

          well i am using other social apps as well :) But i check my all online stuff from flipboard easier to check everything. I think facebook thinks they dominate everything.

        • MasterMuffin

          You like saying “this.. thing…” :D

          • Nate Swanner

            That’s because I don’t know what it is, this… thing… ;D

            • MasterMuffin

              :DDD

    • Filip Justin

      Go home, Facebook, you’re drunk! Honestly, Facebook Home is a creepy move by the dating website. It would have been great for them to just make a great app instead of making a “give your life to us” Launcher for Android..

    • chris pinkston

      This phone and launcher don’t make sense for some or myself but..Some people will eat this up. I know people that spend so much of their time on a smartphone looking at facebook. These types are also probably not concerned with latest chips and tech. A phone like this will feed their appetite to keep up with everything fb and perform ok at everything else. They just should have associated their name with the phone more to appeal to the types that would want it.

    • ANDROIDFANS

      Realistically, this is actually very good for android because it promotes the idea of launchers. Many android users and ALL iphone users have no idea what a launcher is, even though it has got to be one of android’s coolest, best features

      • Nate Swanner

        I agree… and so does the founder of Android.

      • Nacos

        True, but unfortunately those using Android and not knowing about launchers (or the myriad of other cool features) will be just as ignorant and continue to only be interested in posting their pictures and videos while carrying on with hours of meaningless chitchat and oblivious to any other changes. There is no teacher who can teach, or doctor who can cure IGNORANCE. It’s such a heavy load, they don’t even notice it. ;)

    • androidfan

      Realistically, this is actually very good for android because it promotes the idea of launchers. Many android users and ALL iphone users have no idea what a launcher is, even though it has got to be one of android’s coolest features

    • Nacos

      Nate, congrats!! it’s been a while since I’ve read such a nicely written article. Well done, well done!

      • Nate Swanner

        Thank you, Nacos.

    • David M Whittley

      I never got the Facebook app to run well or smoothly on my old Galaxy S as it used too much ram and bogged the whole phone down. It will be interesting to see how this mediocre device handles ram greedy apps like Facebook, Facebook messenger which together account for upto 80Mb ram plus Facebook Home and eall the other needed background services.
      Time will tell.

    • Guy De Vos

      The only advantage I see here, is that more mindless teenage girls will be drawn to the Android ecosystem instead of the iOS jail.

    • http://twitter.com/lukamlinar Luka Mlinar

      I am not buying a phone where this can’t be uninstalled! No joke.

    • williamworlde

      Google started off as a search engine and has morphed into a multifaceted organization with its R&D and acquisitions pretty quickly. They offer/provide “stuff”. Maybe FB will have something of substance to offer someday, but they’d better act “fast”. They are still not offering anything substantial since being in business. It was/is a great concept, but what next? Where is the next level going to take us? It has the money, but is still only trying to selling us stuff. Not good enough.

      When I changed my phone last November, I didn’t put the FB app back on my new device. I now “try” to visit FB once/wk. on my laptop but find myself slipping to 2 ,and in one case, almost 3 weeks! FB just isn’t THAT important.

      And no, my friends are no more dull than yours. It’s just a matter of inane things people think are important that they MUST post. I DON’T CARE!

      I have a full life of my own and getting in touch via email, messaging, and yes, even a phone call, still work for me. Hmmm…..

      • Josh York

        Well said!

    • Glen

      “Maybe” this would have been of “interest” 3 years ago when THE Facebook was really still novel. I was a heavy user/experimenter then. Facebook, now, Is just plain annoying. Moreover, I really don’t think anyone other than a 12 year-old would be ok with such a take over of their ux.

      My plea: Anonymous, please do something with FB. They have jumped the shark.

    • Chris

      Good luck to the dramatic people who will buy it

    • APai

      I’m frankly completely befuddled. who would this new “home” appeal to, and why ? I don’t know how many would want the phone function to be superceded by facebook. beats me. but then again, I ‘m not on facebook, so i do not appreciate/ see what a potential fan of this phone will.

    • androidsuckers

      Not good enough !

    • Parrot

      Waiting eagerly to install it on my galaxy s 2!

    • Shaheen

      Very well written article…I am no fan of facebook but I know this idea will take off…and I think we all should welcome it…there will always be different things that excite different people….if somebody likes to live in his fb life, so be it…

    • Shaheen

      I am clueless as why my comment disappeared… :(
      Very well written article…I am no fan of facebook but I know this idea will take off…and I think we all should welcome it…there will always be different things that excite different people….if somebody likes to live in his fb life, so be it…

    • S Woof

      Thank God… with all the over hyped publicity, I thought I was the only one that felt this way.

      I’ve un-installed the current FB app and use the Web version with Chrome, so to limit FBs information gathering. I just don’t trust FB to not sell my info, or to keep private things I don’t want others to see. And the ad’s have gotten way out of hand. I think once they have people hooked on it, they will put ads front and center on your Home. No Thank You!

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