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Facebook “Home”: Mobile Best & Social Phones

by Joe Murphy Librarian on April 4th, 2013

Facebook announces a new mobile presence, “Facebook Home,” which diffuses social across the mobile Android experience. Here are some angles to consider.

It is not an operating system and is not the rumored Facebook phone. It is anfb home extension of the mobile app to create a social (via Facebook) experience that permeates the mobile device.

Home is Facebook’s new front end for Android devices. The news reveals some interesting tech trend areas and brings some implications for libraries that deserves some of our thought.

The What (the details before we can get to the important meanings below):

Partially about content, partially about connections, and all about screen real estate. Home can serve as the first portal for engaging the device starting from a social perspective instead of a task perspective. Facebook says that Home uses the Android operating system because Android is architecturally open.

With Home’s Coverfeed feature, Facebook can literally reside on the phone’s home screen and lock screen. This brings stories from your Facebook ecosystem (linkshares, status updates, instagram pics etc) to the forefront. These can be commented on and liked from with double taps without having to open Facebook.

Home features a messaging function called Chatheads which works with both Facebook messages and Android SMSs. Message streams are collapsed in the UX because in this design it shouldn’t matter which app you are using to chat in attempting a seamless communication experience. Chatheads also allows for chatting regardless of what app you are using or where you are on your device.

Facebook Home will be available on April 12 and can be installed via Google Play. It will be coming to Android tablets in the future with plans to maximize the tablets’ tactile visual interfaces.

Mark Z’s “One more thing” moment was an announcement of a direct partnership with AT&T and HTC for phones designed with Facebook Home built in. HTC CEO Peter Chou (correctly) said that mobile is fundamentally social as he introduced “HTC First.” HTC devices that come with Home preloaded and optimized in a “social phone” with a significantly accessible $99 price point. There will also be a FB “Home Program” set of guidelines made available.

For Facebook, Home is about our eyes and our connections in their world via more deeply being in ours via our always on devices.

Facebook’s info page abut Home.

Tech Meanings:

There are a lot of interesting technology directions reflected in and revealed through Facebook Home. First of all is the redirection of Facebook’s “Mobile First” directive to the next step as “Mobile Best.” This, along with the concept of the social phone instead of the mobile phone, are arguably the real sizeable impact of this news.

Occupying the home and lock screen means the best layer for promoting Facebook engagement, forget pushes to set it as your homepage. Mark Zuckerberg referred to the home screen as “the soul of the phone” – which we look at 100 times a day. It’s a functional move too, semi meeting Apple’s iOS notifications feature with the double tap to like and comment from home screen instead of the swipe down.

Coverfeed is visually rich (reflection of Pinterest and Instagram’s impact and value of the visual). Basic navigation gestures remove points between you and your content (impact: the simple swipe to actualize actions supplanting the click or tap). Facebook stream being the first view when phone is turned on provides social value in the first moment of engaging the device. Coverfeed filters the most important social streams applying filtering and currating and notifications can be docked/assigned till later like the much hyped MailBox app.

I wonder if Facebook making a home on Android and immersing its experience across that platform on some devices is anything like Amazon building Kindle Fire over Android?

Mark Z talked about Home as flipping the mobile model to one that is about people first over apps and tasks. Designing a mobile experience around people (or at least FB connections) not around apps and actions. This includes specific person notifications instead of app badge notifications. It’s a mobile platform world, but it wouldn’t mean anything without the people.

The people centric design reminds me of aspects of the internet of connected everything. A people centered nexus might be a symbolic shift in approach to the internet of things. Only symbolic as it uses the phone as the portal still and not the people themselves. I think that what Facebook is doing is trying to design the social mobile experience as the connection experience.

Messaging: Chatehad helps to humanizes (or anthropomorphicizes) the entrance to messages with a tap on a face of your friend. Takes chatting one step further from being a series of clicks and closer to reflecting a real engagement.

Chatheads also takes pains not to disrupt your mobile phone activity and not to silo chatting by allowing you to enter conversations regardless of where in your phone you are and allowing conversations to tag along as you navigate around your device. Conversely, chats following us across our phone activities means that friends are always a possible part of the device experience.

This reflects major aims prevalent across the trend of wearable technology. Smart watches allow you to see incoming data without stopping to pull out your device, Google Glass allows you to snap pics and view information in the same stream of your normal behavior. They help to maintain the context. In the instance, FB Home is another example of Facebook incorporating some prevailing current tech engagement areas much as they do with their updates (Facebook Messenger app, location, Poke) and that Apple does in its software updates. The big companies bring in the new techs to stay current and we can watch which ones these big players pull in to see which tech trend areas have staying power and influence.

I can see a bit of the second screen concept here as well. Just as we keep our gadgets with us as we engage content, now too can we stay within our gadgets as we engage social or stay with our connections as we use our gadgets in the reversal of the second screen idea.

This does not disrupt the hand centric state of engaging socially. We’ll see if wearable tech’s big debut with Google Glass later this week can shake that up.

Home makes the Facebook experience diffuse and gives strength to the centrality of social.

What Facebook Home Means for Libraries:

One major impact is that social content gets the most possible exposure with prime real estate on the phone home and lock screen. This will mean a further increase of social information and more need for skills to leverage that as consumers and facilitators of info.

This also means a new platform for the real value area of Facebook for libraries: connections. Facebook is about connections, and not just between people or between people and services, but as a platform between people and resources via apps. This is the area of interest to libraries and this immersion of the Facebook ecosystem into a mobile platform means increased impact for information centers.

Of course this also applies to libraries using Facebook as service and marketing platform.

Remember Facebook is also a content player and Home puts more than your friends at the forefront, it places the entirety of the Facebook ecosystem with its tendrils into resources at a primary view.

Warning and take away:

Facebook Home is only for Android for now. This update is for Facebook’s marketing and to better monetize their mobile product. The best things to take away from this are the tech trend areas we see impacted: social dispersed across the mobile experience and “mobile best.”

- Joe Murphy Librarian

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