Last night Mark Zuckerberg announced what the whole world wasn't expecting. It wasn't a phone from the social media giant, but actually a new Android app called Home – although Zuckerberg claimed it to be more than just an app. Here's what some said in reaction to the latest announcement from Facebook.
“The latest revenue-driving move from Facebook might actually be the pot of gold that Zuckerberg and team have been looking for. The obvious development is the Cover Feed, with a high level of filtering that would allow Facebook to offer premium advertising to brands. While this wasn’t mentioned specifically at the announcement, this is clearly the next step for Facebook display advertising.
“However, the most exciting development for advertisers is Facebook’s potential to use Home to keep track of a consumer’s location. Combine this with the Chat Heads and notifications features and the social network could deliver consumers location relevant and timely commercial messages.
“Whether consumers have the appetite for more Facebook, more of the time will become clear as we watch Home’s performance over the next few months. However, if Facebook has cracked the mobile conundrum, it could now be sitting on a potential goldmine big enough to keep Wall Street happy - at least, for now.”
Any broadening of Facebook's appeal on mobile devices would have to be broad-based, and the Android launcher approach allows it to target a huge installed base of hundreds of millions of Android users, which will be a large chunk of Facebook's total user base of more than a billion people.
To users, the sell here will be making it easier to share information, photos and so on with friends. But to Facebook, this is about becoming more deeply embedded in the operating system on mobile devices, and creating a broader platform. Since Facebook doesn't make an operating system for mobile devices, this is the next best thing. It will allow Facebook to track more of a user's behaviour on devices, and present more opportunities to serve up advertising, which is Facebook's main business model. And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook's objectives and users' are once again in conflict. Users don't want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both.
This is a great experiment for Facebook - it's much lower risk than developing a phone or an operating system of its own, and if it turns out not to be successful, there will be little risk or loss to Facebook. If it does turn out to be successful, Facebook can build on the model further and increase the value provided in the application over time. The biggest challenge will be that it can't replicate this experience on iOS, Windows Phone or BlackBerry, the three other main platforms.
For carriers, the risk is that this puts Facebook's communication services front and centre on the device and makes them easier to use and more integrated with the core experience on the device, which should make them easier to use than when they're buried in an app, and should accelerate the shift from carrier services to over the top (OTT) services. It should be a big boost to Facebook Messenger and the associated voice and video services.”
The launch of Facebook Home plants an overdue stake in the ground for the company’s ‘mobile-first’ positioning. It also underscores a major mobile theme — the shift toward audience data – and addresses both advertiser and consumer need for more relevancy across the board. The shift will allow Facebook to leverage location and screen in a powerful way; after all, we now interact with multiple screens at all points throughout the day. Advertisers should anticipate these variations and think about how consumer habits will change in a cross-screen, location-aware world. At Jumptap, we focus on uncovering audiences across all platforms and devices; following the way in which consumers live. Facebook’s re-design lands at this important intersection of audience data and mobile.
Launching Facebook Home as a mobile homescreen is likely to make people look at, and engage with, their smartphones even more than they are doing now. By increasing usage, this could be a win-win situation for mobile marketing, as it increases the amount of time consumers are able to see, and engage with, brands and advertising via mobile. By integrating itself more fully into consumers’ lives, Facebook is enabling mobile marketers and brands to get closer to consumers, and – in light of Facebook’s partnership with HTC – we should see improved performance for consumers and mobile marketers alike.
Facebook Home has finally achieved what nobody else has managed since Zi's attempt with Qix on Symbian back in the mid 2000’s, that is; take ownership of the home screen. This real estate is gold dust and allows Facebook to completely own the mobile experience. Many chat companies have tried for years to achieve a people-centric view and with the new “chat heads” messaging, Facebook has beautifully designed a mobile experience that puts your friends first and foremost.
Facebook’s commitment to frequent updates is fantastic to hear. I’m expecting integrated voice calling (voice head?) and monetisation opportunities – the home screen is a premium. While Home is available on all Android handsets, AT&T and HTC have partnered to market a Facebook ready handset, great for those obsessed with Facebook and a really great marketing partnership. I think Facebook have approached this in the right way, focussing on building upon the open OS. This will definitely encourage more Android sales.
Facebook’s latest mobile move might pose a potential threat to brands not on the Android operating system, who are wishing to expand their consumer base globally – the most obvious examples being Apple and Nokia. While it is too soon to tell how much demand there will from consumers for ‘Facebook Home’ in Western markets, the appetite for social network connectivity via mobile in emerging markets is huge – something that 70 per cent want. Couple this with the fact that almost a third want a phone designed by the social network with relevant content and apps preloaded, means that the HTC First might quickly become the device of choice in these regions. Additionally, the price point of the device - although more expensive than other smartphones available - at $99 it is more in line with what consumers in these markets can afford. However, brand affinity in these markets is also high and Samsung currently tops the leaderboard. Given that Samsung devices also operate on Android, Facebook Home might create new opportunities for the company.
Although version one of Facebook Home will not host any advertising, the ability of Facebook to access and share the data sourced from consumers who are continually logged into the social network creates massive new monetisation opportunities. However, future advertising that has been confirmed for the Cover Feed will need to be treated with absolute caution. While Facebook and third parties will be able to target users more effectively based on ‘likes’ or location for example, Facebook needs to maintain tight control over the frequency and relevance of the advertising so that it doesn’t interrupt the user experience or feel intrusive to consumers
Facebook Home is perhaps not as bold a move as some had anticipated. It is not a Facebook OS or even a "fork" of the Android OS, so not quite the seamless blending of hardware and software that makes the Apple experience so compelling. But by virtue of being a slightly lighter integration (non HTC users will be able to download Home much as they download apps today) it stands a chance of becoming ubiquitous much more quickly.
What Home does at its heart is encourage users to spend much more time with Facebook on mobile-and by default, less time with competitive services and applications. The hope will be that they quite literally fade into the background.
More significantly, however, Home enables Facebook to capture more diverse kinds of user interactions. The aim is not simply to get users to spend more time doing the same things on Facebook - updating statuses and pictures - but to become the default way they interact with their friends on mobile, bidding to replace text and email with Facebook messaging and chat functions.
By capturing more of these interactions, Facebook captures a much richer picture of their users which becomes much more valuable to its advertisers - who we call and text for example remains one of the greatest predictors of genuine intimacy, influence and even location. So we can imagine that much more highly targeted and premium advertising formats will become available - combining mobile, social and location data has long been a Holy Grail of marketers. As Home becomes the first thing users see in the morning and the last thing they see at night we can also imagine more contextual, time sensitive formats-the challenge will be for marketers to behave appropriately in such an intimate context.
Perhaps the cleverest thing about Home however is how potentially disruptive it could be in such a deceptively light and easily available layer.