Welcome Home Facebook

FacebookHome

Yesterday, Facebook announced the long awaited Facebook Home experience. As always with any social media announcement, our team was all ears, streaming the event on every computer in sight, live tweeting from every Twitter handle and providing some entertaining and insightful commentary. So, we thought we would share what we’ve learned so far:

What is Facebook Home?

It’s a new Android mobile experience that puts people (via social connections) before apps, offering upfront notifications and quick access to all the essentials for staying connected. It will primarily be available as a full package on the ‘Facebook Phone,’ which will debut as the HTC First on AT&T, but will also be available to download via Google Play on select Android devices on April 12th.

Here are some key features:

Cover Feed
It places photos, status updates, links and more right on your home screen so that you don’t have to open the Facebook app to browse your News Feed. No longer just a selection screen for individual functions, your phone will now be able to natively offer a constant window into your friends’ lives.

Chat Heads
This is a new and innovative function (despite the awkward name) that centralizes all chat conversations, and most importantly, allows you to chat from anywhere within your phone without having to switch apps or return to the home screen.

App Launcher
This is a function that allows users to group apps together based on importance, usage or favorites. We’re still not sure how this significantly differs from what Android already offers but what makes the App Launcher unique is that it allows you to post to Facebook without opening the Facebook app.

Why does Facebook Home matter?

For starters, Facebook is recognizing that in a vast sea of almost 1 billion Android apps, the mobile experience is getting fragmented. According to Nielsen reports, the average number of apps on a smartphone in 2012 was 41. This means that, with users downloading more and more apps, competition in app discovery and use will only get more fierce, resulting in less time spent per app. So why not be proactive? If Facebook wants to maintain its domination on mobile app usage, it needs a game changer.

According to comScore, Facebook’s app accounted for 23% of time spent on mobile apps in 2012. Given this disproportionate figure, it was only a matter of time until the folks at Facebook responded to these overwhelming usage stats with a customized mobile experience. For those critics out there, what would have been worse is if Facebook had chosen to do nothing with this insight.

Implications for Brands

Since brand posts appear on the News Feed just like your friends’ posts, they will also begin to appear on the home screen, but the question that begs answering is are they worthy? Considering how intimate and personal the home screen is, the demand will only rise for more compelling and relatable branded content, especially now that (image) posts will appear one at a time as standalone slides and not as a stream of linear posts. Brand posts could potentially become more prominent than ever, and users will undoubtedly be even more critical of this content, now occupying a space that has traditionally been reserved for self-identifying wallpaper. Since users can’t control every bit of content that comes on their News Feed, they will likely become much more selective about which brands they choose to “Like.” But on the other hand, this new function is bound to make the home screen more dynamic than ever.

Will other social networks follow suit by developing their own deeper mobile experiences? Will other mobile operating systems allow Facebook and other social networks to develop new mobile products with the same approach? How long will it be before Facebook decides your home screen isn’t too sacred for ads? It’s not clear at this point, but one thing is for sure. That last one is likely only a matter of time.

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