What a difference a year makes. In the run-up to Facebook’s IPO in May 2012, many analysts were pointing out that the company’s seeming reluctance to develop a mobile strategy was really rather unfortunate.
Facebook’s user metrics were already looking fragile, growth was slowing – and, with tablet and smartphone usage growing exponentially, the company’s numbers were hardly likely to improve if it failed to take a lead role in the mobile revolution. And, indeed, this was an important factor holding back the performance of Facebook stock in the weeks after its IPO.
It wasn’t long, though, before the company’s response came and it began to engage on this front. There was talk, for instance, that Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg was planning a Steve Jobs-style coup and that he had a "Facebook phone" up his sleeve – a device that would stun the world by taking mobile technology to a whole new level.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way, of course. In reality, his catch-up strategy is a little more modest – earlier this month, Zuckerberg launched Facebook Home, an app that sits on top of the Google Android mobile operating system and invites you to use Facebook as a gateway to your whole mobile experience.
The app becomes both lock screen and home screen – and even if you move beyond this layer to use other apps, Facebook functionality will still be prominent on-screen. It is also expected that the service will be structured to give advertisers more opportunities (for instance, on the home screen) and Facebook will be hoping to use tracking data to serve location-based ads.
In its first week, Facebook Home has been downloaded more than 500,000 times, despite only being available on four smartphones. However, early reviews have been mixed, with many users complaining that the app and its many permission requests drain the battery.
Zuckerberg certainly believes it’s a genuine game-changer, calling Home "the best version of Facebook there is", and expects it to alter, forever, our "relationship with technology".
Is he right?