Is This The Future Of How We Use Facebook?

    April 6, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

On Thursday, after weeks of building up to it (and years of Facebook phone rumors), Facebook unveiled the closest thing to a “Facebook Phone” that exists. This comes in the form of a new “family of apps” for Android, and an actual phone from HTC with the family pre-loaded. The experience is called Facebook Home.

What are your first impressions of Facebook Home? Future of Facebook and mobile communications or meh? Let us know in the comments.

Facebook’s mission with this offering is to make your phone more about people rather than about apps. The core feature of Facebook Home is the Cover Feed, which takes over as your home screen, and lets you swipe through the latest photos and updates from your Facebook News Feed. You can also interact with the posts from there (liking, commenting, etc.).

But it doesn’t end there. Notifications appear on the home screen in a visual way. As our own Zach Walton explained, “All notifications will show up on the home screen as separate entries. Tapping the notification will bring up the Facebook app for further interaction. If you want to get rid of it, you can just toss it off the screen. Holding one of the notifications will lump them all together if you so wish to disregard all of them at once.”

To even access your other apps in the first place, you have to hold the image of your face that appears (see that little image of Mark Zuckerberg below) and swipe it up to the appropriate place.

Facebook Home

There is a feature called “Chatheads,” which allow your Facebook and text messages to follow you through your other apps. Messages (via these little heads of your friends) will show up at the top right of your screen regardless of what app your’e in.

Facebook Home

For a more hands-on look, you might want to check out this demo from The Verge:

Okay, some of you are probably thinking: I don’t even use Android, so why do I care about this? Fair point, but Facebook indicated that it wants to provide an experience like this across all phones. This is easier said than done, however.

Facebook chose Android because of its open source nature that allows it to take over your phone in the manner it does. It’s not so easy for all operating systems. Zuckerberg specifically talked about how Apple’s control over iOS simply does not allow it to offer this kind of experience on an iPhone. It would take a partnership for that to happen.

Facebook already does have a relationship with Apple. As you may recall, Apple touted heavy Facebook integration in the latest version of iOS. Here’s what Zuckerberg had to say about Home on iOS in an interview with Fortune:

We’d love to offer this on iPhone, and we just can’t today, and we will work with Apple to do the best experience that we can within what they want, but I think that a lot of people who really like Facebook — and just judging from the numbers, people are spending a fifth of their time in phones on Facebook, that’s a lot of people. This could really tip things in that direction. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

Of course only a select few Android users even get access to Facebook Home at this point. It’s only launching on a handful of phones, which is somewhat ironic given Facebook’s desire to have it on every phone. It’s coming to the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II, as well as the newly introduced HTC First, which features Facebook Home pre-installed.

For developers, Facebook has created some new opportunities with Home. The Cover Feed feature lets users access app content as soon as they turn on their phones. More on that here.

For Businesses, not only will your Page’s posts and photos be more readily available to users due to the in-your-face nature of Facebook Home, but Zuckerberg says ads will be coming to the feature at some point.

Another thing that could make Facebook Home more useful to both users and businesses is the eventual addition of Graph Search. Graph Search has not even been launched on mobile devices yet, and it remains to be seen how long that will take. It will happen, however. Facebook said as much when that was introduced. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land quotes Zuckerberg from the Home launch:

“When that’s available, hopefully we’ll be able to make that available here [in Home]. But even Graph Search, Graph Search is not web search. People still need Google or Bing of whatever they use for web search.”

Is Zuckerberg perhaps being cagey, holding back on a secret-uber plan to eventually have Graph Search take over on these devices. Perhaps. And I do think Graph Search is going to come. But really, the impression I got was that search has largely been overlooked with the launch of Home.

As Google faces the real risk of losing search market share little by little to numerous vertical services, it’s possible that Graph Search will play a big factor in that. We discussed this more here.

Sullivan makes a good point in that same article in that Facebook Home makes users have to work harder to get to the search experiences on their devices. Just as users have to take an extra step to access their apps, they have to take an extra step to get to the search function (which could very well turn people off of the offering on its own).

Fortune goes so far as to call Android “Facebook’s new weapon against Google” because of Facebook Home; the point being that Google wants you to live in Google’s world and use Google’s services when you’re on an Android device, and Facebook Home puts you squarely in Facebook’s world, distancing you more from Google’s products even on its own operating system. It’s a fair point, and it’s really a similar (but more in your face) strategy to what Amazon is doing with its Kindle Fire devices, which use Amazon’s version of Android and its own app store.

If Facebook is able to get a substantial amount of people using Facebook Home, even if only on Android, it might push Graph Search even further into users’ search habits, especially if it’s available on their devices in less steps than a Google search.

But search isn’t the only Google service Facebook Home pushes to the background. As mentioned, it essentially pushes every other app on your phone to the background, but as Pocket Lint points out, it even eighty-sixes Android notifications, except for on the HTC First (another reason a lot of people might steer clear of Home).

There are real questions about whether or not people even want this kind of Facebook experience on their phones.

And of course, like with just about anything Facebook does, privacy is in the discussion. Even some of the most veteran of tech journalists are raising concerns.

Om Malik, for example, writes, “In fact, Facebook Home should put privacy advocates on alert, for this application erodes any idea of privacy. If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action.”

“The new Home app/UX/quasi-OS is deeply integrated into the Android environment,” he continues. “It takes an effort to shut it down, because Home’s whole premise is to be always on and be the dashboard to your social world. It wants to be the start button for apps that are on your Android device, which in turn will give Facebook a deep insight on what is popular. And of course, it can build an app that mimics the functionality of that popular, fast-growing mobile app. I have seen it done before, both on other platforms and on Facebook.”

“But there is a bigger worry,” Malik adds. “The phone’s GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time.”

As some noted in response to Malik’s points, Google already does this stuff.

Martin Bryant at TheNextWeb counters Malik’s argument asking, “Is that really such a bad thing?” His point is essentially that targeted ads are better ads.

All in all, you have to really, really like Facebook to want to have Facebook Home dominating your phone. Luckily, there are a lot of people that really, really like Facebook. The social network has over a billion users. It’s unclear how many of them love it to that extent. Home adoption could prove to be an interesting window into that kind of data.

Even without having access to it, it’s clear that many view the offering as intrusive and an inconvenience to the rest of their phones’ functionality. It’s going to be quite interesting to see how the product evolves and whether or not users get on board.

What do you think of Facebook Home? Is this the future of how we’re going to interact with Facebook? What are the bigger implications? Share your thoughts in the comments.

  • http://Jasminepartners.com David Browb

    Graph search has some real potential, but the phone is a non event. Most if not all this functionality is available today, unobtrusively in the background. And that’s where it ought to stay.

  • http://jtn-network.com/ Jadtechnic

    I think facebook is mistaken again or is grasping straws something Facebook is and has been for sometime bleeding users not only to twitter but now big time to pinterest …

    the last thing people want is for facebook to take over there phone and the rest of there privacy and there familly I dont think facebook will fail to quickly so long as they continue to offer the largest unlimted digital photo storage online at this time online storage for movies and music the end of CD and dvd are not here yet but is looking all in the face dead on
    the other thing is cable and movie on demand service like netflix I think cable is moving to the 100% wireless phone cable internet no matter where you go you will be conected to your cable service and movie service cloud providers ..

    digital phone will be the news cell ( Smart Phone ) in the form of hand held and video phone device..

    facebook app way to little way to late people went there addicted to the games they are all avalable else where no one really uses face book for the bigger games no more ..

  • http://promoterbizincanasrulnohconcept.devhub.com Nasrul Noh

    I think is a great tool

  • http://promoterbizincanasrulnohconcept.devhub.com Nasrul Noh

    great tool ride on FB

  • Bill

    Another flash in the pan. Pointless, waste of time ( well for me, although it is quite clear and I understand EXACTLY why FB is doing thid) – but it’s utterly pointless. I’ll give FB another couple, ok – 5 years – and it will be replaced by the “next new thing” – Yes, there IS a world out there socmessing with 1000’s of FB “friends” they’ve never met – let alone Skyped – but is THAT REALLY YOUR LIFE ? Surely not.
    Grrrrrr – a FB hater! LOL ( word were just my opinion – don’t rip me apart! LOL)

  • Linda Lou McCall

    I’m not giving up my iPhone for an Android just to be able to get Facebook. As a business owner, there’s no value in Facebook itself or the FB ads. FB is good for socializing but not much else. Anyone who needs to be on Facebook 24/7/365 or who would switch from the best cell phone on the market just to be able to blab on FB needs to rethink how they are using their time. Once again, Facebook is attempting to be “Big Brother”. To be involved in this latest mess would mean that my life revolves around Facebook – which it doesn’t!

    Facebook needs to developing a way to provide a more accessible Customer Service department and several other major upgrades before I would even THINK about this. Its Apple app is so crappy that I don’t even use it on my iPhone or iPad 2, preferring to access it via the Apple Safari browser. Plus by switching to an Android, I’d lose all of the great iOS integration tools like iCloud. Nope! Not for me! Facebook is not such a vital part of my personal life or my business while Apple has been for 23 years! Facebook (and Twitter) are for “cloth heads” who have nothing better to do with their time except post inane comments about nothing.

    Facebook is just not ready for “prime time” nor can it ever hope to be the giant that Apple is. one must remember that the way that Steve Jobs gave us products that we wanted, but not necessarily needed. i fail to grasp how this FB endeavor is either wanted or needed. To regress to ANY phone from an iPhone is a step back in growth. I don’t even like the way that Facebook has attempted to control and own our Facebook page content from comments to photos. I know that I really don’t want Facebook popping up on my phone every time I use it. Nor do I want FB to have access to my information on my phone, which will be its next step, to be sure.

    I can not see giving Facebook that kind of power when it has the worse app ever! Show me first that it can design and release a better app for my iPhone and iPad first, to say nothing of the stupid upgrades to its website over the past 2 years, like that useless and counter-productive “Timeline”.

    To paraphrase rapper Jay-Z – “I’ve got 99 apps but Facebook ain’t one!”

  • http://www.livingportugalproperty.com Portugal Real Estate

    FB Home is a serious contender, even if not for business at the moment. If you control the consumer, all those who are socializing, then of course somewhere in the future the businesses will come to you.

    If you have a large crowd, somebody sets up a hot dog and popcorn stand, why would it be any different with FB Home?

    • Linda Lou McCall

      IPhone is not even FB Home’s closet competition. Facebook has to look out for Google first. It developed the Android to get into the phone market. Apple didn’t even flinch. Plus die-hard Apple users are not going to give up their products without going through some kind of DETOX! Once you go Mac, you never go back!

  • http://www.cyberjunkeez.com Iftikhar Ahmed

    Facebook is making its use very easy for the users and adding progressving tools into it.

  • http://www.gethotelsoffers.com Danny

    Facebook are trying to break into a lot of new ground, and I guess that’s their way of wishing to preempt the future regarding the web and mobile….

    This can be a good thing, though, sometimes in their rush to be 2 steps ahead, they can end up ruffling a lot of feathers, and lose a fair slice of ground support(loyal users)……if those users are only being inundated with useless gadgetry…

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Nina

    Face-book wants to keep its using super active and involved with their fans at every moment of the day. Face-book users don’t have to miss any face-book updates but have to get them in real time as the events are occurring. Smart move indeed.

  • http://www.yorungetur.com Umre

    thanks for sharing. its good informations lol :)

  • http://www.CrowdedSquare.com Briant Williams

    I truly believe the people that will love facebooks new toy will be teens and college students. It may work if they target those demographics. Business people want be to thrilled about keeping up with make believe friends all day.


  • http://easyonlineclassifieds.com/ John Hogan

    Linda Lou is 100% correct. Personally this sort of thing Facebook is investing so much in is the beginning of the end for them I think. I have my reasons for this belief believe me.

  • http://www.atsms4u.com/shop/ Jake

    I think we will use facebook in our personal mobile, tablet as our home page, nowadays early morning starts with tea or a cup of coffee but later or sooner will starts with facebook. Hmm lets see what happen. Facebook rocks

  • http://hallenter.com Jeanette Hall

    I think Facebook is a waste of time and resources. Unfortunately, most of the world thinks it is a wonderful tool. Since I am trying to make money on the internet, I will have to follow the herd of mindless cattle like internet users. There are many superior products on the internet that do a better job of sharing information among team members, friends, relatives, etc.

    • http://www.philippineswebdesign.com Steve

      This is my favorite comment about this article! Im riding the same boat as an advertiser i HATE FACEBOOK! but like you said “i have to herd of mindless cattle” for my clients to get hits and make sales..its amazing to me how some people think Facebook is great! I just don’t see it. All it seems to do is waste time…