Facebook's announced Facebook Home and the HTC First, the so-called "Facebook Phone". Hurrah… I think. It's worth keeping in mind, however, exactly why Facebook is going down this particular route.
As predicted, the HTC First isn't a phone worth getting particularly excited about in a pure technology sense. It's a solid dose of middle-of-the-road engineering and specifications with a price point to match. Then again, the HTC First wasn't the real key point of Mark Zuckerberg's presentation this morning. That was reserved for Facebook Home, the Facebook-centric launcher for Android devices that Zuckerberg swears blind is about "people, not apps".
Here, watch the ad. No, I'm not being paid to place it there (which I'll get to in a moment).
Doesn't that make you feel all warm and gooey inside? At least, that's what it's meant to make you feel. Anyway, back to Facebook Home, and its "people, not apps" philosophy. Facebook Home isn't about people, and it's only slightly about apps in any real sense. Facebook Home is about one core thing, and that's Facebook. Facebook itself is about one core thing, and that's money.
It's a topic I've talked about previously, but it's one well worth bringing up yet again. Facebook Home would make you feel (as per that rather nauseating ad — see, I told you I wasn't being paid to place it there!) as though Facebook had your best social interests at heart. It doesn't. Facebook has its own self interest at heart, and the interests of its customers.
You are not one of its customers.
Really, you're not, unless you've paid to have one of your own posts promoted, and even then you're only a very minor customer indeed. Facebook's information — that's the stuff that you'll happily punch into Facebook Home — is the product that it sells to advertisers. In short, you're the product, and the more data you give Facebook, the more it can target ads and make money. Mobile is a massive growth area for this kind of data generally, and that's precisely why Facebook has gone down the Facebook Home route.
Facebook Home won't carry advertising at launch, but Mark Zuckerberg wasted no time in telling those at the event that it would do so eventually. In the meantime, all the data punched into Facebook Home will be part of Facebook's general data, meaning those ads that pop up in your Facebook feed — or off to the side of it — will know even more about you. In one minor aspect that might be an upgrade. Facebook is lousy at properly targeting me with relevant advertising. I don't want a weight loss program. I'm not worried about how well my bra fits, and I'm not interested in mature singles in my area, what with being happily married and all… and that's something Facebook directly knows!
Whether handing over your personal data is a fair tradeoff for a mobile social experience is up to you; it certainly hasn't seemed to quell Facebook's growth to date. I'm interested to see what Facebook Home will make of the Android experience, but it's worth going into it with an eye on what Facebook's actual goal with Home — and indeed all Facebook services — actually is.