On April 4th, Facebook announced it’s new mobile initiative, Facebook Home, which will be available April 12th pre-installed on the HTC First or as a download from the Google Play store (for supported devices).
What is Facebook Home?
It’s an Android Launcher, which, in Webopedia’s terms, is the part of the Android user interface that lets users customize the home screen, launch mobile apps, make phone calls, and perform other tasks on Android devices. Every Android phone has a built-in launcher application, but there are numerous launchers available in the Google Play Store (see here), and Facebook will add to that list.
What are the features?
I don’t want to get into too many details here since they’ve been reviewed in the tech blogosphere by Gizmodo, Mashable, and Engadget, but the short summary is that it will provide a streamlined version of your news feed called Cover Feed, integrate with your phone’s contacts, make it easy to message your contacts through Facebook, and simplify sharing updates and photos, even easier than their Android app.
Why develop a launcher?
From a user perspective, Facebook has created a launcher to provide the user with a more engaging Facebook experience on their phone. While reviews are a bit mixed, I’m sure that Facebook will continue to improve the interface based on usage and user feedback.
From Facebook’s perspective, it wants to increase time spent on its social network in order to collect more data so it can generate more revenue through mobile advertising. By coupling your location with your Facebook interactions, Facebook will be able to target you with more relevant ads. In other words, the ads will be very lucrative as advertisers will be able to target not only you but also your intentions. For example, imagine arranging lunch plans with friends using Facebook Home, and while you are near a restaurant shortly thereafter, you are targeted with an ad for half-price off your meal or a free dessert. In other words, be prepared to be targeted if you use Facebook Home, which may not be such a bad thing if the ads are highly relevant.
Should you install it?
If you are a fan of Facebook and/or a heavy Facebook user, then you should download and try it out. I would only caution you that Facebook will collect even more details about you, which isn’t different than what Google or Apple does with their operating system, but may be a little unnerving given how cavalier Facebook has been with users’ privacy and data in the past.
If you don’t use Facebook much or are concerned about privacy, then you should stay away. While I would like to try it to evaluate the interface, I’m not going to install it. I’m going to rely on reviews from others because I don’t trust Facebook. I know that you can uninstall it, but the paranoid side of me is concerned that uninstalling won’t completely erase everything allowing Facebook to continue to collect data, which I’m not comfortable with. My views are similar to Om Malik of GigaOM, which he articulated way better than I can in this article. Even a hands on wasn’t able to convince him otherwise.
Facebook Home is an application for hard core Facebook users. Otherwise, I would recommend caution before installing the application and awareness of what Facebook’s end game is – to make money off of mobile advertisements using the data you provide them.