Yesterday Facebook announced “Home,” a homescreen takeover application for Android that makes Facebook your phones primary interaction surface. Here are my initial reactions.
First, this is a smart move by Facebook as an attempt to counter the threat of unbundling that is posed by apps. Competing apps unbundle different pieces of functionality (Twitter for status, Instagram for photos, Foursquare for location, Kik for messaging, etc). Facebook has rightly recognized that whenever you have unbundling there is an opportunity for re-aggregation.
Second, the idea of making the re-aggregation be around people is an interesting one. Our portfolio company Brewster has been working on some related ideas. Eventually though I expect that there is no single organizing principle for re-aggregation (not functions, not people, not locations) but rather we need overall contextual awareness. For example, the surface I want my phone to present to me when I first pick it up in the morning is quite different from the middle of the day and for each of those there will be variations depending on whether it is a work day or I am on vacation, my current location and so forth.
Third, personally I can’t imagine choosing Facebook to be the re-aggregator on my phone. I would want a company to do that which is neutral across all the other networks (a network of networks) and whose interests are better aligned with those of its endusers. In the past I had hoped that Google would be that company, but that was before Google decided it had to have its own apps for everything. Now I believe this is an opportunity for startups.
Fourth, this is a clear example of how much more open for developer innovation Android is than iOS. Whether or not you like Facebook Home, this could never have been done by a third party on an iPhone. I have long predicted that its excessive control will come to bite Apple and in addition to seeing more people personally make the switch to Android, I am now also encountering more startups that develop Android first and in some cases Android only.
I have my previous Nexus S still at home and may use it to try out Facebook Home when it comes out. I am curious whether anybody reading this can see themselves making Facebook their Home. Also, would love to get reactions to the concept of the phone becoming a smart re-aggregation point for unbundled functionality.