Friday, 26 April 2013

Is Facebook 'Home' what users want from a mobile experience?

Last week Mark Zuckerberg introduced the world to 'Home' it's a product that sees Facebook finally get to grips with the shift to mobile platform access, something that analysts  have been looking for ever since the IPO.

So what is it?
Facebook 'home' is an application that will effectively take over the home screen of the user's smartphone – so long as you have an android phone. The product will operate with devices with Android 4 and above only. Zuckerberg stated that this will put a user’s personal interactions at the heart of their mobile experience.
The launch is a bold move, but it's something that as The Register points out, mobile operators have been attempting to do for over a decade with absolutely no success. The issue that the operators have faced is that they've always approached it from the company's revenue generation opportunity rather than from what a user wants from their experience. That means it’s always fallen short with the handset manufacturers.
Is Facebook the Internet?
This user first positioning is where the Facebook play could be so smart. Many argue, probably correctly, that each user is effectively the Facebook product. In reality however, to many users Facebook is the Internet, it's where they go first and where they get a huge amount of their information. So, having it as the homescreen will make sense to a huge proportion of the Facebook community. In July last year the users accessing Facebook via mobile was 543m well over half the base.
Add to that that the amount of time spent on Facebook (estimated at 1 in 7 of all internet minutes) and this adds up to a huge opportunity to launch those users straight into the Facebook environment.
What about our privacy?
There have been deep concerns expressed around the impact on privacy, with many feeling this will simply provide Facebook with the data to track a user’s every finger movement as well as their actual geographical movement. The other obvious objection is regarding the 'user as a product' argument. Home provides a platform for advertisers to place ads directly on to the home screen. This has the potential for users to become hugely disgruntled and advertisers are warning that ads must not intrude on user's experience.
The product launched last Friday and we'll see whether Adam Moressi (Facebook product designer) is correct in building an app that is "...trying to do is shift people's focus away from tasks and apps, and toward people". Or whether Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, is correct in his assessment that "Facebook thinks it's more important to people than it actually is...for the vast majority of people, Facebook just isn't the be-all and end-all of their mobile experience," he said. "It's just one part."
In the meantime you can take a look at what happened when The Verge took it for a trial run.