The Friday Debate: Is Facebook Home a good thing?

April 5, 2013
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We are all mobile geeks here at Android Authority. We love everything with a power button. We like to comment on the latest news and endlessly argue over which phone is better. On the Friday Debate, we pick a hot issue and proceed to discuss it. Join us!

Facebook has now outed its much-rumored and much-anticipated Facebook Home. While mobile has traditionally been a weak point of the social network, Facebook has started making inroads into smartphones and tablets, with improved mobile-optimized user interfaces on the major mobile platforms. As much as many techies would not want to admit it, Facebook has become a platform that is useful in both information exchange and interaction. Still, we cannot deny that there is a lot of junk floating around in Facebook, and that privacy issues are still a deal-breaker for many.

Consider that in the emerging markets, mobile devices are the primary means of accessing the Internet. Facebook knows that in order to capitalize on this growing market (for instance, China has a billion mobile users), it needs to be the default go-to place when a user opens his or her phone. In mature mobile markets, meanwhile, persistent data connections are the norm, and everyone is always connected. This is perhaps the essence of Facebook Home. While Facebook has not produced its own mobile operating system or smartphone brand, it has the potential to proliferate across the hundreds of millions of Android devices out there.

With the combination of Facebook Home as the home screen and launcher, plus Facebook Messenger as your messaging and even your VoIP calling service, Facebook might just be geared toward taking over mobile, even amid the dominance of Android and iOS. This is all free, of course. But at what cost will it come for smartphone and tablet users who practically give away their information to Facebook? As the saying goes, if the product is free, then you’re probably the product.

Our team has differing opinions about Facebook Home, which is great. Here are some thoughts below. Read our arguments, vote in the poll, sound off in the comments!

Darcy LaCouvée (G+): A perpetual high school reunion

Facebook Home, is, at best, an attempt to further address the problems Facebook is facing. Their lack of agile development in Android and especially towards Android tablets is shameful. Particularly interesting, to me at least, is how they have taken so many cues – design and otherwise – from Google and Google+ as of late. Google is in the driver’s seat, and clearly dislikes what Facebook is attempting to do here. With all things considered, and with the ridiculously large user base that Facebook already enjoys, I’m sure it will be somewhat of a success.

Those that really appreciate social networking already know: Facebook is a perpetual high school reunion while Google+ is a place where you are free to follow all of your passions. No Facebook home for me.

Daniel Charlton (G+): Stupid but compelling

Honestly, I think that the product is stupid.  But then, I’m not a Facebook user, so my view is probably skewed.  That said, I find the concept very compelling.

Facebook is basically showing up every single Android manufacturer not named Google.  They are delivering a highly customized Android user experience and they are doing it within an app.  Not a custom ROM or custom framework.  A simple, standalone app that will (eventually) be released for general consumers to download from the Google Play Store.  It makes it pretty clear that TouchWiz and Sense and the rest are needlessly complicated.  If those OEMs took the same approach, it could end the fragmentation nightmare and make updates easy for everyone.

Derek Ross (G+): Facebook and privacy don’t mix

As a social media enthusiast and a guy that loves to customize Android, what Facebook has done is pretty awesome. Now using it is another story. I dislike their platform, therefore I won’t be using their launcher. I still can’t deny it’s cool though. If I used and liked Facebook, I’d install it right away.

That is, if I wasn’t concerned with what Facebook would be doing with my data. We’re in the age of context. I believe this is Facebook’s way to enter this new era and compete with Google Now. There’s a huge difference here though. Google Now is an opt-in service. I highly, highly doubt Facebook will have an opt-in or opt-out service. They just don’t do that. That hasn’t been in their business model yet. Facebook and privacy don’t mix. Time and time again, Facebook has broken our trust in regards to privacy.

In the end, I’m curious to see where this goes and will keep a close eye on it.

Bogdan Bele (G+): Probably addictive and counter-productive

I think it’s a great idea for people that are addicted to Facebook. It certainly makes it much easier for them to easily keep in touch with everything that’s going in in their account. Personally, I’ll probably try and get bored of it in a few days.

It also could boost sales of smartphones supporting it, and I’m pretty sure the HTC First will do well, too. Believe it or not, I know enough people whose main use for their smartphone is using Facebook.

As for those of us not addicted to Facebook, we’ve lived without having it at the forefront of our phone until now, we’ll continue to do the same from now on.

All in all, it’s Facebook trying to keep people on Facebook even more, and I can totally understand it from the company’s point of view.

I have to say, though, that I like the Chat Heads feature. In a world of permanent data connections, I can see it replacing text messaging for some people – and making others even less productive.

Robert Triggs (G+): Speak to me now! speak to me now!

To quote the great Stephen Fry, “the telephone is a fantastically rude thing, it’s like going: Speak to me now! Speak to me now!” After all, you wouldn’t bang on someone’s desk and demand to be spoken to.

That’s kind of how I feel about the whole design philosophy behind Facebook Home. It upgrades even the most pitiful status update from an optional periphery into front page news, demanding your attention even if you simply don’t care.

With Facebook Home you’ll be forced to witness all the drunken ramblings of your friends, the stomach churning pictures of “lasagne” your sister just cooked, and you’ll be faced with an endless steam of pet pictures every time you turn on your phone. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m quite happy with the current notification system which allows me to check out updates on my own terms, but with Facebook Home there’s no escape. I’m all in favor of social networking but it’s important to be able to tune out.

Of course if you’re an insanely sociable creature who prides yourself on having an intricate knowledge of your friend’s lives, then Facebook Home’s new features are actually pretty good. But it’s definitely not for me.

Joe Hindy (G+): Good for competition

In theory, Facebook Home is an interesting idea. While many of us may not like the idea, we have to remember that this new Facebook experience isn’t targeting people who use all the social networks. This is targeting people who live and breathe Facebook. Despite Google+ and Twitter’s popularity, Facebook still reigns supreme in this market and there are still a lot of people who use only Facebook. For those people. Facebook Home could be an amazing experience. Personally, I won’t be using it on my daily drivers because Facebook is but one of many social networking experiences I enjoy every day and it’s not even the one I use most often.

I am happy that it exists, though. Android thrives on competition. When Facebook Home launches, we’ll all get a chance to see what the world would be like with a Facebook phone by simply downloading the app. This is going to be taking a big piece of pie from other launcher developers, other social networking sites, and will affect a good portion of the Android ecosystem. This means many of them will have to improve or adapt in order to remain competitive and relevant. That equates to more apps with more features for us, the end users, which means we’ll be the real winners here.

Vote in our poll and join the discussions!

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