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Apr 9 2013   12:38PM GMT

Facebook Home on Android is a non-starter

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller

Facebook as the center of your mobile life is a non-starter.

After Facebook made its Android announcement called Facebook Home last week, my first reaction was “this is nuts,” but I decided to let it sit. After almost a week, I still think the idea is a non-starter.

There are so many reasons this is a bad idea, but let’s just explore a few of them.

* Who in their right mind wants to have Facebook as the center of their phoning lives? Zuckerberg made it sound like a feature that my friends’ information comes up on my phone, even when it’s locked. As my colleague Wayne Rash pointed out, unless your socially obsessed, this approach isn’t for you. Is the latest George Takei ditty so fascinating that it can’t wait for me to open the Facebook app and see it? I don’t think so. Facebook just isn’t as important as it wants us to believe.

* Aside from the fact that Facebook thinks I want it at the center of my life, when I don’t, there are other reasons to leave Facebook safely locked in the browser or an app. I don’t want Facebook having access to my entire mobile life. It’s bad enough, the amount of information Facebook has on our lives, do we really want to give it control of our mobile phones? Om Malik thinks not. I’m inclined to agree.

As Malik wrote, “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.” It’s a scary scenario and no thanks, Facebook.

It’s precisely the reason if I were a Bing user, I wouldn’t add Facebook search to my results. I don’t want Facebook and Microsoft sharing all this information about me and how I search and what I do on Facebook. It’s bad enough that Facebook knows what it does, I’m not giving it any more ammunition from my mobile phone. No thanks.

* It’s a blatant power grab of the Android platform. Why would users who choose the Android platform for its openess, give that up to Facebook? The fact is most people wouldn’t. As Alexandra Chang put it on Wired, ” It isn’t a phone made by Facebook. It’s something better than that, and in some ways, more important: a deeply integrated application with its hooks set tightly into the Android platform. Think of it as an apperating system.”

With this move, if people actually did it, Facebook would get the best of all worlds. It would attack Google at the heart of its OS by taking it over before you even get past the lock screen. Great for Facebook, but for users, not so much.

Facebook Home is Zuckerberg’s wet dream of what he wants the mobile experience to be — centered around his service while weakening a key competitor in Google in the process, but this isn’t some teen dream about mobile. It’s reality and nobody in their right mind other than the completely Facebook-obsessed (and even my teen has backed off from it a great deal) are going to go for this.

This makes great theater for tech journalists like me and we love the drama of the announcement and watching Zuckerberg grow as a pitch man, but this approach is a non-starter and I’m predicting right now it’s not going anywhere.

Photo Credit: Kris Krug on flickr. Used under CC 2.0 Share Alike/Attribution license.

9  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Robin "Roblimo" Miller
    Forget privacy. From a pure usability standpoint, why would I want to turn my Android phone's main screen over to a company with such a lousy mobile website? Talk about slow... 
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  • Ron Miller
    True. Excellent point Roblimo. These guys have a terrible mobile reputation. 
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  • Michelle Greenlee
    I'm with both Millers in the comments... I finally saw a commercial for Facebook home. I wonder what data they used to determine a real need or desire for such a thing.
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  • Michael Tidmarsh
    Oh Zuckerberg and his crazy ideas!
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  • Ron Miller
    Michelle,When you consider how poorly FB surfaces information in the newsfeed, I don't have a lot of confidence in its ability to do it any better on the smartphone.
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  • Ron Miller
    Michael:It's worth noting that I had a little debate on Twitter with Robert Scoble who is very bullish on Facebook Home. He thinks it's a difference maker. He is taking one to Coachella next week and he promises to report on how it worked. My point isn't by the way that FB isn't important to people. Many people including me spend a fair amount of time on it every day, but that doesn't mean that it's so important I want my FB updates front and center of my mobile life, especially when that comes with a serious quid pro quo that I hand FB all my mobile data in exchange for that ability.
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  • Michael Tidmarsh
    I agree Ron. I'll be interested to see his report next week since I haven't seen many too positive reviews so far.
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  • anthonymaw
    I don't understand why Facebook wouldn't just release it's own branded hardware phone based on Android phone OS.
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  • Ron Miller
    Anthyony Maw:  Good question, but I think they see this as a more effective strategy to take over the phone. Obviously I think it's a flawed approach and so far reviews on the Google Play Store have been abysmal (for what that's worth).
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