Facebook’s new Facebook Home app merges with your existing Android operating system to give you a constant stream of updates, information, and chat. Is this something that its users want?

Facebook exists to connect people, to give them a way to stay updated with their friends, family, and vaguely remembered people they met once at their in-law’s family reunion. Critics have often cited privacy issues – the number one reason for users to quit Facebook altogether is concern for their lack of privacy – but for the most part, Facebook has a loyal following of users that are willing to share their lives with others in some way. These users upload photos of their pets, their kids, and funny e-cards that they see on the internet, post statuses about current events and everyday life, and interact with their friends.

For most of these Facebook users, Facebook is a tool – not a way of life. The new Facebook Home app changes that for android users, prioritizing Facebook content over all other content, and rigidly dictating the home screen on their phone, a major drawback for users for whom Android home screen customization was a beloved feature. “Friends fill the screen” says the info page for the app. “As soon as you turn on your phone or press the home button, you see a stream of posts from News Feed,” a drastic change from the Android home screens users are used to.

Facebook Home is “tailored to please the most avid Facebook users,” says the Washington Post, but in catering to the heavy user the app may lose appeal for the casual user. Facebook Home represents an almost total overhaul of the Android operating system, making a phone a Facebook phone primarily, and an Android phone secondarily. For die-hard Android enthusiasts, this can represent a major problem.

While the ChatHeads feature, released separately as an update for the Messenger app, has received praise from users and critics alike – calling it “pretty nifty” and saying it “looks awesome” – the Home app itself has not received as much praise as was likely anticipated.

“Thank God I don’t need to use the facebook home to use the chat heads.” writes one Reddit user, with similar sentiments echoed by other users. “Unless you spend all your time on Facebook it’s worthless” echoes twitter user @KahluaMike, in response to @AndroidHeadline asking about user experiences with the new Home app.

So will Facebook Home flourish or founder? Only time will tell, but preliminary response to the app appears to focus mainly on the usability of the ChatHeads function or on the drawbacks of the overhauling done by the Home app itself. For Android users, download the app in the Google Play store. iOS users are, for once, the ones out of luck.

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April 15, 2013

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