I don’t have a Facebook account. I had one a few years ago, but at some point, I just got tired of having my privacy settings be changed without my permission under the disguise of changing the UI and essentially just resetting settings as part of renaming them. I think that Facebook is a neat idea, but I don’t think the company behind it is even remotely trustworthy or capable of running such a service in a responsible manner. I frankly wish the entire company and service to hell, and shiver every time I see a Facebook-based comment or login field.
However, I also think that Facebook Home is a great idea.
Ever since the second coming of mobile devices, we’ve seen the rise and fall of some frankly pointless OSes. Competition is normally a good thing, but I think there are some very distinct exceptions to that rule, and that’s when everything draws from a finite source of resources, in which case everything is affected by everything else.
The thing with mobile OSes is that every time some company decides to come out with a new one, the expectation is that it will start out slow, but get more and more apps as it matures. That means that developers that are expected to support all platforms get more platforms to support, which spread their resources out over more projects, which has the inevitable side effect of halting development on major platforms. There are those companies that just hire more developers to work on the new platforms, but that’s not the case for everyone. There are also those that write their apps in common languages that makes it easy to support multiple platforms, but again, not everyone.
For instance, I don’t have the slightest interest in platforms like Blackberry 10. However, if an app I rely on for iOS and Android suddenly sees less frequent updates because the developers are busy pushing out a Blackberry 10 version of the app, I immediately switch from simply not being interested in the OS, to wishing the OS straight to hell.
That is why I can’t help but bang my head against the nearest wall when everyone and their grandmother wants to release a new OS. More devices to confuse average consumers, more stupid platforms to support for developers, and in the end the UI is really all that’s truly different from one to the other.
Enter Facebook. What Facebook didn’t do, was add to this chaos. Instead, it decided to release an Android launcher, which is a very large part of an Android device’s UI. It’s still the same phone as before, just with a UI designed around Facebook. I might think Facebook is the plague, but if people actually want to use it, this is certainly a great option. It doesn’t permanently modify the phone, it’s compatible with devices that people have been buying for a year as well as upcoming models, and it manages to achieve its goal without having to get involved with aspects of the mobile device market that aren’t strictly necessary.
Obviously a launcher isn’t the same as a full OS, but for Facebook, it serves the same purpose. Seeing how most teenagers use their phones, for instance, I think that it will be a very attractive option for them, and I think that Apple should be more concerned about this than anything else that has happened in the Android world in the last couple of years.
Samsung, LG, and everyone else can tout 1080p displays, 13 megapixel cameras, quad core chips and tons of RAM all they want, but at the end of the day, they’re only really appealing to those out there who read those specs. The (sad) truth is that most people would go buy an iPhone no matter what, because that’s just what people do. Facebook Home, however, now that is something that is going to spread. It’s going to be extremely attractive to Facebook junkies, of which there are many. I’m quite sure that there are a lot of people out there who will move away from the iPhone because of Facebook Home, and I understand why.
The kind of integration a launcher has with Android isn’t possible on iOS, and I highly doubt it ever will be. I use a custom launcher myself on my Android phone, have set it up the way I like, and I think it’s an excellent feature. Nonetheless, I think Facebook Home the first time in the history of Android that the open launcher system has actually mattered to the average user, which is also why I see articles about Facebook Home on online newspaper websites actually explaining how the concept works.
Like I said, I’m no fan of Facebook, but I think it’s actually onto something here. Facebook is one of very few services that could actually do this, as you only have one launcher, so you cannot expect people to replace their launcher for just anything. Other services/companies that could potentially do this include Microsoft and its range of MSN Live Skynet 365 (or whatever they call it these days) services, and Google itself, assuming it’s not finally going to give up on Google Plus.
I would really love the irony of a Microsoft content launcher on Android, and it would be neat to give Microsoft users a way to use their services on an OS that’s more capable in certain areas. More than that though, I can’t get over the fact that one of Google’s biggest competitors just came up with a way to use Google’s own invention in a way that Google itself has’t come up with after years of Android.