Facebook Home: Fancy New App, or Tipping Point for the Internet?


ADOTAS — Facebook, Google and Apple are preoccupied with one key ambition: to become the dominant interface between people and the Internet. It’s the same thing the ISPs warred over before people started setting their home screen to Google. Now, with the mobile interface destined to become the key access point to the Internet, Facebook Home is the latest salvo in the battle to realize that ambition.

Designed to replace the existing “home”’ and “lock” screens on Android powered devices, Home is a new app that wraps around the Android OS and pulls in your social content to enrich the mobile experience. Look further, however, and Facebook Home is more than just another app; it’s a concerted strike by Facebook and Google on Apple’s ecosystem of device, experience and content.

Home’s Cover Feed and Lock Screens trump everything else on your mobile device, meaning Facebook no longer plays second fiddle to Google. Instead, Home aims to make Facebook the starting point for every digital journey you’ll make, facilitated by its integration with Bing and the recent launch of its Graph Search service. That, of course, puts Facebook directly in the path of more advertiser dollars.

Of more importance though is the user experience Facebook Home tries to deliver. Until now, Facebook has for most merely been a welcome distraction to our daily lives, whilst the usefulness of apps and mobile technology plateaus without the intelligence of contextually relevant social content. Cool applications, big megapixel cameras and gesture-controlled interfaces will remain novel but will ultimately be generic.

Layering Facebook’s social content over the mobile operating system will enhance your phone’s functionalities, elevating them from technology features to humanized tools. Imagine a phonebook that doesn’t order contacts in alphabetical order but instead by the type of relationship you have, or a calendar pre-populated with the birthdays of your best friends and family and delivering gift suggestions based on their likes.

In placing the emphasis of mobile interaction on people, rather than apps, Home aims to provide a compelling reason for people to switch from Apple’s iOS to a combined Facebook and Android ecosystem. Own the ecosystem, own the user, and of course a big slice of the revenue generated by advertising and paid content downloads.

The big question, and one which we will only gradually understand the answer to, is whether Home is primarily a feature for the Facebook-obsessed, or a genuine paradigm shift in the war to own the interface between people and the Internet, and the dollars spent on advertising and content at that interface.

Does Facebook Home deliver a paradigm shift? With a two-out-of-five rating from over 11,000 reviews on Google Play, this version of Facebook Home seems to be a rather underwhelming experience for many Android users.



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