Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Home, an optional interface layer on Android-compatible smartphones that allows users to access the social network at all times — and not just limited through an app — is certainly not for everyone.
While the phenomenon of integrating Android smartphones with Facebook may have seemed like a good idea considering the amount of time users are already spending on the social media site, the interface has yet to take off the way Facebook executives hoped it would, and MIT Technology Review attributes that to the disconnect between Facebook and Android’s ultimate values. While Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has long maintained that its mission is to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Facebook instead works to simply maintain its longevity and keep itself in existence.
That’s where Android and Facebook’s paths diverge, and also where problems arise: because users don’t necessarily consider these two companies’ underlying goals when opting in to Facebook Home, they’re often caught off guard by how unnatural the whole thing feels. The author of MIT’s review witnessed this in his Facebook Home experience but was able to reflect on it and pinpoint the major themes he said attribute to “the strangeness of Facebook Home.” Here are a few:
1. Facebook Home: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide
It sounds silly, but that really is the baseline reality for Facebook Home: Facebook is always there. Those with Facebook Home installed on their mobile devices no longer see the home screens of their phones open up to a page holding all of their favorite apps. Instead, Home is at the forefront of the phone’s background, and although you can easily access your apps by tapping on your avatar and dragging it to summon other icons, it does take a few more steps than with a non-Facebook Home phone.
And don’t forget that when you’re not in a specific app, you will be subjected to a continuing stream of your friends’ images and status updates. Don’t want to see your ex-boyfriend change his relationship status to “engaged?” Don’t look down. Don’t want to see what pool party your friends are at while you’re at work? Don’t look down.
MIT Technology Review also points out that Facebook hasn’t figured out a way to filter the most annoying people out of your News Feed – at least not yet – unless you do it the long way, and that means that users are often subjected to streams of inconsequential news more often than not. As the author of the review writes, “The final effect of the home screen is like being at a crowded reunion of half-remembered faces rather than on the eternal holiday promised in Facebook’s advertising campaign.”
2. Facebook: A Way of Being
It’s easy to recognize that Facebook Home actually epitomizes Facebook’s very goal: to be a way of being, rather than a tool. Nothing about Facebook is permanent. Statuses are fleeting thoughts, wall posts are quickly covered up by the next day’s activity, and chat conversations are so small and trivial that little meaning is ever said there.
Facebook wants its users to be constantly engaged, leaving no one out of the party, because that means the social graph can just get larger and larger, maintaining Facebook’s ultimate mission of perpetuating Facebook. Why do you think that you can now “like” comments made by other people, or comment on conversations you’re not involved in? Because Facebook wants you to be engaged! It wants your attention to be constantly monopolized by social networking, and while that’s fine and good, in the grander scheme of things, that’s where Facebook Home fails on an Android platform.
Like other computers, processors, and companies, Android wants permanence — it is purposed to facilitate it. That’s why the implementation of Home as an interface on Android-compatible smartphones is almost silly. Smartphones help users create content and save it, while Facebook isn’t designed to be a tool, just a way of being, the MIT Technology Review report points out. Authors don’t write their novels as Facebook statuses, and they don’t do anything on Facebook that is supposed to be permanent. That’s because Facebook isn’t really for anyone but itself, and although users can accept this fact — it’s not life or death; after all, it’s Facebook — it at least is helpful to identify why Facebook has yet to be successful with its Home interface.
3. Many Worlds Versus One Facebook World
Lastly, what ultimately differentiates Facebook from the rest of the computer and Internet sphere is the disagreement over how many worlds consumers are allowed to have, according to the MIT Technology Review report.
Most technology encourages users to have many worlds and to use the mechanics available to them to create their own, using codes, data, and whatever else they need to simulate and understand their own stomping grounds. But Facebook has a different vision: it only wants one world and refuses to apologize for it. Facebook’s goal is to connect and break down barriers as it works to expand its social graph rather than erect more, according to the report’s author. That’s why Facebook views privacy as selfish — privacy keeps users from connecting and building one social model of the world, and it also keeps them from constantly interacting on Facebook. When users control their own sphere, that is where Facebook becomes irrelevant, and that’s the company’s biggest fear.
So Facebook wants your present, and computer and Internet companies want the permanence of your future. Therein lies the dissonance that is keeping Facebook Home from succeeding, MIT Technology Review says, and until either Facebook or Android smartphone users are ready to make some compromises, it might just stay that way.