Is Facebook Home a Big Deal?

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After much buzz-building Facebook debuted its new Facebook phone last Thursday. Of course, it turned out not to be a phone after all.

Facebook Home, as it is being called, is actually an Android app (iOS, we’ll get to you later). The user’s homescreen and lockscreen become home to his/her Facebook newsfeed.

Here is a quick video of Home in action:

Cadie Thompson at CNBC takes note:

Although Facebook is moving in the right direction by focusing on mobile, its new integration isn’t likely to move the needle much for the company, said Rakesh Agrawal, the principal analyst for reDesign Mobile.

‘I can see why Facebook wants to be in this market, but why as a consumer do I need this experience?’

That is a sentiment I have seen repeatedly echoed online since the Thursday announcement. I’ve also heard some people saying things like, “I don’t trust Facebook with my real birthday or pictures of my kids, why would I trust them with my phone?” While it remains to be seen how much Facebook’s poor reputation on data privacy will impact adoption it is a valid concern.

Facebook Home is just the latest move on the mobile front. Facebook has been making huge strides in mobile for several months now, to the relief of its investors. A whopping 23% of Facebook’s total ad revenue in the last quarter came from mobile ads, a 14% percent jump from the prior fiscal quarter.

Still, if the new app will only be on Android devices, and is tarred by Facebook’s negative rep on privacy matters, why is it such a big deal? Because it will come pre-installed on some phones, like the HTC phone Zuckerberg touted in his announcement. People have a tendency not to stray from their intial user experience.

Research supports this worry, as Thompson also notes:

And with its new ‘Home’ applications, the social giant could stand to make even more money off mobile ads, Trip Chowdhry, managing director for Global Equities Research, said in a statement.

Chowdhry said that Facebook Home could threaten Google’s mobile monetization because if Facebook Home is the first interaction a user has on their device, it is likely that is where the user will spend the majority of their time.

It was a savvy move on Facebook’s part. Apps for Android do not go through the intensive screening that iOS apps do. Facebook took advantage of this open architecture to hijack the Android interface with Home. Facebook overlaid all their own core funtionality while obscuring other apps and functions.

In another article the next day Thompson talked to Chowdhry again on the subject:

‘Basically, the mobile industry for Google changed yesterday,’ said [Chowdhry]… ‘The announcement showed Google has gotten its mobile strategy completely wrong, what Facebook did yesterday could have happened at any time but it took a smart company to exploit this.’

Indeed, it seems like a brilliant strategic move on Zuckerberg’s part. Of course — and it should surprise few people — the word is that eventually advertising will be displayed on Home. Probably something similar to the paid promotional posts already in your newsfeed. I wonder how Google will react when that rolls out. And how will the FTC react?

Engadget notes that the new UI replacement will be available soon for a number of devices (as long as they don’t run iOS):

At first Facebook Home will only be available from the Play store on a few select phones, the Galaxy S III, S 4, the HTC One, One X+ and the Note II. But more devices are in the works — including Android tablets. If you’re looking to get your own hands-on with the new Android replacement UI it’ll be available on those phones April 12th in the US, with other countries to follow.

About George Williams

George “Loki” Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.

  

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