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Josh Krichefski

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Facebook Home -- Hit or Miss?

Posted: 05/03/2013 4:51 pm

The latest string to Facebook's bow is Facebook Home.

If you don't quite know what it is yet, it's an app which integrates Facebook into the working of your phone and becomes almost a Facebook operating system; changing your home screen, the way you message friends and generally making all your interactions based around Facebook.

But what does this mean for the future of the social networking giant?

Essentially, by introducing Facebook Home, the social network is making a move to cement its place in mobile. Earlier this year, Facebook announced that the number of mobile users had overtaken those accessing the site via desktop -- that's more mobile users than Google.

Whilst Google's strategy seems to be focused on 'owning' the Internet -- with Chrome, Google Plus and lots more -- Facebook is moving towards this same domination on mobile and is posing the first real challenge to the Google machine. As Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg told the BBC, "To say that mobile is important to Facebook is the under-exaggeration of all time." It's a smart move on their part, and one that's likely to be good for the company's share price.

But the big question is: Will people use it? Five days after its release, Facebook Home had had 500,000 downloads. That's not a small number, but then again it's not very impressive considering Facebook has over a billion users.

A consumer poll of 2,090 people by MediaCom also showed that almost three quarters of people (74 percent) hadn't heard of Facebook Home, or didn't really know what it was, indicating that uptake may be slow. And then there's the fact it's only available on Android devices, meaning iPhone users (myself included) don't currently have access to the app.

When it comes to ads, we don't yet know how they will be integrated into Home. The big dilemma is how tolerant users will be of ads when they're not actively engaging with Facebook.

If Home does somehow integrate adverts successfully, it would be a powerful tool for marketers, with scope for ads targeted either according to location or how consumers use their phones. But even without ads, it's likely data captured from Home users will be used to target ads on the mobile app and desktop version.

It's still early days for Home and we're yet to see whether it'll be a slow burner or an idea that goes the same way as the likes of Google Wave. Its usability will ultimately determine its success -- so far Facebook has managed to maintain the balance between a positive user experience and its commercial operation, but will omnipresent mobile ads be a step too far?

And with Home encroaching into new territory and changing the way people use their phones, will we reach Facebook saturation point? It's impossible to say but, if Home is a success, Facebook will reach as yet unchartered heights in the mobile world.

 
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