For years people have been speculating about the potential arrival of a Facebook phone and many people thought that Facebook’s “new home on Android” event could be such a launch.
However at the event Facebook instead announced the launch of Facebook Home, a new app for Android phones, which inevitably caused quite a stir online. Hailed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a means to convert your “Android phone into a great social device”, its main feature is called Cover Feed which embeds your Facebook newsfeed directly onto your Home & Lock screen. Once installed it appears to ‘take over’ the phone, creating a new layer on top of the Android experience, a layer which Facebook controls. This has led many to speculate a forthcoming battle between Google & Facebook.
But I don’t think it’s going hugely successful or something Google should be concerned about. Here are a few points to consider:
- Not everyone uses Facebook and even those that do don’t revolve their lives around it. As the much quoted Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research said, “Facebook thinks it’s more important to people than it actually is.”
- Facebook Home is Facebook centric, it doesn’t appear to play friendly with other messaging platforms but we use many other methods to communicate: Twitter, SMS, WhatsApp, email etc. Of these it appears that only SMS will appear in the feed.
- Do you really want your Facebook newsfeed appearing on your phone’s lock screen? Like many people when I sit down at a table I often place my phone on the table. With an eclectic group of Facebook friends do I really want all their postings appearing on my phone in public or in a business meeting?
- The reverse of that is of course, do you want your private postings appearing front and centre on other peoples phones? Privacy has never been Facebook’s strong point and there will be no way now to control where your content eventually appears.
- Lastly, how long before your phone becomes a walking billboard as Facebook start embedding adverts on your home screen? Worse, as many of these adverts are targeted on personal data some of these adverts may reveal more information than anticipated. For a taste of what effects this can have seen the trouble Google AdWords caused Gavin Barwell.
Facebook Home does appear to have some interesting features but I can’t help feeling that this application has been a little too aggressive in its implementation and reflects Facebook’s self-importance. Combine that with the concerns raised so far and I don’t think it will be as successful or as dangerous to Google as people are implying.
What is for certain is that smartphone users are increasingly using their phones to access online information and companies like Facebook and Google are struggling to monetise these platforms through adverts. The companies are battling for control of the content delivered to your smartphone and it will be interesting to see if and how Google reacts to this latest move from Facebook and whether it will stick to it’s motto “Don’t be evil”.