By Scott Kleinberg, Tribune Newspapers
April 11, 2013
What is Facebook Home and why do I need it? Depends on whom you ask.
At the unveiling last Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained Facebook Home as a "family of apps" designed to push Facebook content front and center on an Android phone. The Facebook Home website further explains that Home puts your friends at the heart of your phone.
You only have to look at the screen to get status updates from your news feed. Your Facebook notifications are always front and center. You can continue to chat even while using other apps.
Some in the tech and social media community, including me, think Facebook Home is more about keeping people inside the Facebook ecosystem. So for example, you'll use Messenger instead of SMS. And you share on Facebook instead of tweeting. And while you can turn off Home at any time and tinker with the notification settings, Facebook Home is most suitable for people who look at their phones and think "you know, I don't have enough Facebook in my life."
How does Home differ from a more traditional smartphone experience? You're still using Google's Android operating system, but you might not know it. Yes, it's Android only. No, this experience isn't and likely won't be available for iPhone. Software such as Home is only possible with an open OS, something Google takes great pride in. Apple chose to go the proprietary route, so Home couldn't work there in its current form.
Here's an overview of what you get with Home, according to Facebook:
•Cover Feed: You don't launch the Facebook app to look at updates from friends. They just show up on the homescreen. Same goes for notifications.
•Friends fill the screen: Your news feed appears as soon as you turn on your phone or press the home button.
•Chat heads: Picture a little bubble filled with the face of your friend. If you are using another app and get a message, the bubble appears. You can move the chat head around as necessary. This makes multitasking when working outside of Facebook much easier and would be a pretty cool feature in any Facebook environment.
•App launcher: Lets you have quick access to the apps you use most.
If nothing else, Facebook Home is convenient. If you spend a majority of your time using Facebook and its related tools and apps, Home might improve your workflow. But if Facebook is just one tool you use as part of a larger mobile experience, Home might prove too constricting.
So how much Facebook is too much Facebook? We'll see what users have to say about that. Home will be available pre-loaded in the HTC First smartphone or as a download for certain devices from the Google Play Store starting April 12.
When you have the chance to try Facebook Home for yourself, I'd love to hear about your experience. Tweet it to me or give me an update in the comments.
What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC