Facebook Home, the Android app that transforms phones into the social network itself, is a divisive concept. On one side of the fence, the idea seems like a brilliant notion: take Android’s open source capability and reimagine it the way that Facebook sees fit. But on the other hand, is having Facebook constantly active what mobile users really want?
A few years ago, Facebook bet that cross-platform web apps would be the future of mobile. Now the company has refocused its efforts on making platform-specific applications a success.
A bold move
It’s likely that Google, one of Facebook’s biggest rivals, didn’t expect Home to essentially take over the Android smartphones running it. While Google lets carriers and manufacturers customize Android to create unique products, Facebook Home takes this liberty to another level.
The result is a very different experience from what Facebook users expect. That’s by design as Facebook wants to steer the experience toward more social-enabled elements. This is so the company can gain better mobile traction as people turn to their phones for connecting with friends.
Do users want Facebook all of the time?
While Facebook does well on the web, it has struggled with smartphones and especially with its iPhone app. It’s no secret that a number of technology companies want to crack the code on making money from mobile advertising. By offering a slick, social media-prioritized interface, Facebook hopes to be able sell more sponsored posts and laser-targeted ads that are powered by geolocation data.
But this strategy may contrast with what users actually desire. A good Facebook app is key for the company, yet many might not want “all Facebook, all of the time.” It’s very much possible that the company could overextend its boundaries with users. In fact, the Facebook Home app is just shy of a 1 million installs on Android. When you consider that the company has over a billion registered users, that’s a pretty small subset of customers. But it’s a start, and Home is only available for select Android devices right now.
Big risk vs. big reward
If Home is truly what users want, you can expect other brands and services to follow suit. Especially since ownership of the home screen offers lucrative ad opportunities. Who knows, Facebook Home could just be a glimpse into the future of monetizing mobile. Yet it may take some refinement — and added value — before it becomes something that consumers are comfortable with.