For Facebook, there's no place like Home. The big news coming out of the social network's HQ yesterday was neither a Facebook phone nor a mobile OS, but it was definitely something more than an app -- let's call it a phapp.
Facebook Home for Android is the company's desperate attempt to play catch-up in the mobile arena. If you can't get enough of Facebook -- and don't use an iPhone -- Home may be just the thing for you.
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Simply put, Home puts Facebook messaging in your face (assuming your handset is compatible; it won't work on older Android models). When you turn on the phone, Home will be there on the lock screen, waiting for you. Whenever one of your peeps sends you an SMS text or Facebook message, updates their status, or comments on one of your posts, that will be there, alongside a disembodied "chat head" image of your friend. If you're running another app when this happens, the message and the chat head will pop up over them. Per Facebook's warm and fuzzy press release:
From the moment you wake up your phone you become immersed in cover feed. ... It's a window into what's happening with your friends -- friends finishing a bike race, your family sharing a meal or an article about your favorite sports team. These are the beautiful, immersive experiences that you get through Home.
Want to immerse yourself in an actual phone conversation? How 2008 of you! That's also possible, but you'll have to get to the apps screen, beneath the Facebook Home phapp. That's also where you'll find Google search and Twitter, not at all coincidentally.
Also likely coming to your Home screen, though not at first: Facebook ads. That has folks once again worried about what kind of information Zuckerberg & Co. plan to collect about your mobile habits. Giga Om's Om Malik was one of the first to ring the privacy alarm bells:
The phone's GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time.
So if your phone doesn't move from a single location between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for say a week or so, Facebook can quickly deduce the location of your home. Facebook will be able to pinpoint on a map where your home is, whether you share your personal address with the site or not. It can start to build a bigger and better profile of you on its servers. It can start to correlate all of your relationships, all of the places you shop, all of the restaurants you dine in, and other such data. The data from accelerometer inside your phone could tell it if you are walking, running, or driving.
Even if Home doesn't collect any more information than the usual Facebook mobile app, it will be collecting data 24/7 -- and that could be a problem.