Facebook’s ‘Home’: New layer in the mobile layercake

By Anne Collier

Although as of this writing, a search of Google News turned up nearly 2,000 news stories about it, the new uber app for Android phones that Facebook unveiled today isn’t really big news for families. I know I just wrote about the teen mobile trend, but I sincerely doubt teens will want their use of the mobile platform dominated by any single service. Their mobile socializing is nothing if not fluid and unfocused, and focus is definitely what Facebook is aiming for with this development.

“A total Facebook-ification of your phone” is what CNET called the app in its homepage headline today. Despite all the rumors leading up to Facebook’s announcement, Facebook Home “isn’t a phone, it isn’t an operating system, and it isn’t a rebuilt version of Google’s Android OS,” CNET reports. It’s a meta-app that, for now, can be downloaded on an Android phone; eventually there will be a “Facebook phone” that will just be an Android phone that comes with it pre-loaded. “Home” adds another layer to the smartphone experience by turning all the Facebook apps (the regular one, Messenger, Poke, etc.) into a single app that takes over the home screen so that Facebook is the main event and all other apps recede into the background.

So it’s not for everybody. I think it’ll be really attractive to businesspeople who use Facebook a lot for marketing (and maybe just want an additional “Facebook phone”) and – logically – anybody else who just loves and spends a lot of time in Facebook and thus doesn’t mind an extra click or two to get to other apps. As I said, I don’t think that’s teenagers in particular – unless they’re already running a business, of course. But they could just as likely be marketing their photography skills or hand-made jewelry or other things in other apps (like Pinterest). And teens use Skype and games and text messaging or texting apps and Instagram and Vine and Twitter and so many other apps just as much as, if not more than, Facebook – and not in any linear or one-at-a-time fashion, right?

And, as far as I can tell at this point, there are no additional safety or privacy implications with this new development, except the one that affects all of us, and it’s not “safety” as typically referred to in the news media: overall balance and wellbeing in this digital age. “Facebook isn’t creating any new problems with this software, but it is making it even easier to be distracted,” writes my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid in CNET. So if someone is an avid user of Facebook in particular and suffers from OCD, ADD, etc. – or just struggles to stay focused on things non-social – FB Home may not be a good idea for them. On the other hand, if they want to start getting more focused by consolidating their mobile social experience into one service, then maybe it is!

P.S. This is probably only the beginning. I suspect other mobile app providers will soon be vying to make your home screen neighborhood a single estate.

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