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Mark Zuckerberg Reveals 'Facebook Home' for Android

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The "Facebook Phone" is finally here, but it's not what you think. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today unveiled a new way to integrate its network on Android devices. Called Facebook Home, it represents a rethinking of how Facebook exists on Android phones, Zuckerberg said, putting people first instead of apps.

"You're going to be able to turn your Android phone into a great social device," Zuckerberg said at the unveiling. "Our phones today are designed around apps, not people. We want to flip that around."

Similar to how the HTC One has a live Flipboard-like interface for its home screen, Facebook Home will put updates from the social network right on the home screen via a feature called Cover Feed. Content from Facebook takes up the entire screen, with no navigation or "chrome" whatsoever, and users can navigate through updates simply by swiping. Apps are still there, accessed through a launcher that appears via swiping up.

Another novel feature is chat heads, a way to manage conversations with friends. People you're interacting with via Facebook Messenger appear as pop-up heads on the margin as opposed to intrusive notifications. You also don't have to leave the app you're in to respond. Chat heads work with Facebook Messenger and SMS, but not third-party messaging apps.

That’s all well and good, but the most interesting part of the actual user experience is the new messaging system Facebook introduced. It’s called Chat Heads (Not to be confused with Fatheads). When you chat with someone, a small, moveable thumbnail of his profile picture appears on the screen. Tap the icon to open up the conversation, and tap or swipe to collapse it. When you are in another app, you can see the icon on top of it, so you don’t have to interrupt what you are doing to go into a messaging app to respond, like on iOS.

This is a clever move for a company like Facebook. Not only does it project to shareholders, Hey look, we’re *trying* to innovate! Ain’t no SnapChat here! But it also helps trumpet the core product. That’s because of one statement uttered by Facebook product designer Joey Flynn: “Text messages and Facebook messages will both have the Chat Head format.”

This puts your Facebook friends on the same level as your traditional, important contacts. To a user, it all looks the same on the front end, at least at first glance. Somehow cognitively, it almost tricks your brain into elevating your Facebook friends to the level of the contacts in your phone. Of course, there will be some overlap. But in this scenario, someone like your sister is in the same pool of contacts as your old college roommate’s friend you met one time and added on Facebook.

It all make sense now. These past few weeks, Facebook has been hounding me to download its Messenger app (I still have not). Indeed, you need the app for Facebook Home to function.

So it's the Facebook app reimagined to take over your entire Android phone?

I wonder who wants that. Isn't Facebook-on-Android enough?

It re-prioritizes.  I liked the chat heads feature but until I download .... and I'm not sure I can to my EVO 4G LTE.  I guess everyone waits until 4/12.

Yeah, it sounds like you really want a new Android device for this or it will be SLOW.

HTC and Facebook announce the First smartphone with AT&T, arriving April 12th for $99.99

HTC and Facebook have just announced the First, a new smartphone that puts Facebook front and center and runs on AT&T's network. Despite its name, the First isn't the first device that Facebook and HTC have partnered up on — back in 2011, HTC released the ChaCha, Status, and Salsa, all of which had special Facebook integration.

But the First comes with Facebook's new Home launcher out of the box, offering a much richer Facebook experience than the earlier efforts. AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega says that it offers "the most immersive engagement I've ever seen." Underneath Facebook's Home launcher is Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Facebook says that the First will have some deeper integration for system notifications than the version of Home available for download on other devices and it will also come pre-loaded with Instagram, being the only phone on the market to do so.

Do you think you'll get it? Facebook seems too integrated in my life already, and Facebook Home...



I'm sure I won't get it. 

I just received my first e-mail from Google Play prompting me to download "Free Apps for Staying in Touch".  And for music, racing games, and "Baseball Reads from $2.99."  Imagine THAT streaming into your Home all day long, integrated with your friends' messages. 

Oh geez. My attention span is already short enough!

Seriously though, do you think Facebook Home is a product people want?

Maybe - they might actually have something here.  The tablet version might be interesting.  I think they've done something really smart, putting the social experience up front.  I wonder if their ultimate goal is commerce....

A Facebook spokesperson says “Home” will have the same privacy policy — which Facebook calls a “Data Use Policy” — as the rest of Facebook. When Home is installed on a device, Facebook will know all the other apps that are on your phone in order to improve how those apps are presented, says Facebook. That’s actually pretty revealing, though not necessarily more so than Facebook knowing which Facebook apps you’ve added.

Home will have privacy settings on the device that will include a “ variety of controls,” says the spokesperson. “For example, you can control whether Home is on or off, select data use and image quality, and quickly dive into your Messenger and Facebook settings.”

Even if privacy is legit, there's usability.

"In the demo it looked like a bad screen saver with images and updates panning across the page. To see more updates from your buds, you have to swipe from right to left. That means you get information one swipe at a time."

Read more:

Now more than ever, you are the product:

For some time, Facebook has essentially been solving, almost by default, one of the trickiest problems in digital advertising: How to figure out who's who when users stop using their desktops and switch for a moment to their phones. Advertisers would love to be able to pull off cross-device targeting for the obvious reason that if you search for shoes on your laptop, and then look at your phone, it would be cool to be able to serve an ad onto your phone offering you a discount on shoes.

The problem is that the mobile phone environment lacks the abundance of cookies — bits of tracking code that your web browser triggers — that there is on the desktop web.

Facebook solves this problem because most users tend not to log out of Facebook once they've logged in. As long as they stay logged in, they become targetable, anonymous Facebook users wherever else they go on the web.

Of course, almost nobody ever logs out of the Facebook app on their phone, either. So it's potentially a lot easier for Facebook to know it's you as you move from device to device. (All targeting is done anonymously, by the way. The advertisers don't literally know you're Joe Smith; rather they'll know that you're one of hundreds or thousands of males interested in shoes who are also Facebook users.)

Read more:

Microsoft to Facebook: "Welcome to 2011":

That's right, Microsoft had this same positioning two years ago!

If only they had done it on Android...

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