On Friday 12 April 2013, Facebook Home; the new Android-based ‘super app’ that puts the social network and its messaging, photo and other services front and center on a user’s mobile device was launched in the US. Once installed on a phone, Home takes over the lock screen and main display turning it into a live feed of information, notifications and images with the users other apps sitting behind it.
Within five days, Home had recorded over 500,000 downloads, which sounds impressive, however given the launch of Instagram on Android which received five million downloads in six days. Facebook also has a very high presence on mobile devices, with “more than 680 million of its 1 billion users use the company’s app,” according to co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
So is it a general interest of Facebook to generate a better, more personal user experience through Home? Or is there something more cynical at play here? Facebook relies on an old internet business model: display ads, so is Home just another way they can increase their share price for investors through selling the users data to advertisers?
According to Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, said of Home: “It will allow Facebook to track more of a user’s behaviour on devices, and present more opportunities to serve up advertising, which is Facebook’s main business model. And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook’s objectives and users’ are once again in conflict. Users don’t want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both.” The day after the launch of Home, Zuckerberg told reporters in a Q&A session “there are no ads in this yet. I’m sure that one day there will be,” when asked about the monetization strategy for Home.
I find it extremely concerning that a company like Facebook will be tracking the exact location of all users; they will know what we are doing and whom we are with as well as whom we chat to at those moments. Whilst this produces a great opportunity for targeted advertising, it poses interesting questions about privacy and the ethical nature of Facebook. I have no problem with my Government tracking me and my movements on and offline… as I am a believer of ‘if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing hide.’ Though what I do have issues with, is this type of data being captured by a corporation only to exploit this information by selling it to advertisers so they can reduce advertising waste and have an even better chance of reaching me! I am already exposed to around 3,000 marketing messages a day.
Thankfully the launch of Home experienced some delays; with the negative feedback that users provided after its US launch. So much so, that the launch in the UK and France, which was scheduled for June 2013 has been delayed indefinitely. Perhaps this had something to do with Home being pre-installed on HTC’s ‘HTC First’ Android phone only; a $99 basic SmartPhone from a manufacturer who has lost its market share within the past 2 years. In 2011, global Smartphone penetration was 27%, and 3% of the market was owned by HTC. In 2013, according to Gartner, in the first Quarter of 2013, HTC was not even in the Top 5 for SmartPhone sales worldwide. Perhaps a smarter approach would have been to launch with the pre-installation with Samsung, who in the same period owned 30.8% market share and also operated on Android. Additionally, in the fourth Quarter of 2011 Samsung had the highest penetration in the US, Canada, France and the second highest market share in the UK according to a statistics published by Mobithink. Launching Samsung with the pre-installed Home would have been a much more successful avenue then the random HTC choice.
Needless to say, I am relieved that Home is not available in Australia at present. We already have enough exposure to advertising and I am personally not interested in my locations, actions, kept company and my conversations being sold to line the deep pockets of Facebook, Facebook investors and advertisers alike.
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Dixon, C. 2012. Facebook’s business model. Available: http://cdixon.org/2012/05/15/facebooks-business-model/ (viewed 16 June 2013)
Global mobile statistics 2013 Home: all the latest stats on mobile Web, apps, marketing, advertising, subscribers, and trends… (initial workdhop draft), Available: http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats (viewed 16 June 2013)
Lee, J. n.d. The Pitch. Available: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/blog/the-pitch (viewed 15 June 2013)
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Stamford, C. 2013. Gartner Says Asia/Pacific Led Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to Growth in First Quarter of 2013. Available: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2482816 (viewed 17 June 2013)
Vincent, J. 2013. HTC’s Facebook phone launch postponed in UK and Europe. Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/htcs-facebook-phone-launch-postponed-in-uk-and-europe-8631296.html (viewed 15 June 2013)