By creating its own interface for Android phones, Facebook is taking the fight to its arch enemy, Google, ironically using search giant’s own cellphone operating system, Android, to do it.
Called Facebook Home, the software is a skin over Android that displays information such as a user’s Facebook feed, along with Facebook applications and messaging.
This customisation of Android — Amazon created its own version to power its Kindle Fire tablet — is being built into a handset made by Taiwan’s HTC. The HTC First, which goes on sale in the US on 12 April, runs the new Facebook interface by default.
“We’re not building a phone, and we’re not building an operating system, but we are also building something that is a lot more … than an ordinary app,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook may not technically be making their own Facebook phone, but, let’s face it, this is in effect a Facebook phone.
“Today we are finally going to be talking about that Facebook phone. Or, more accurately, we are going to talk about how you can turn your Android device … into a great social phone.
We think this is the best version of Facebook there is,” said Zuckerberg. Yes, obviously: half of its users access Facebook via mobile and Android is the fastest growing smartphone operating system in the world. Zuckerberg knows how to fish where the fish are.
Facebook Home will work on a select few high-end phones. Owners of Samsung’s Galaxy S3, S4 and Note 2 as well as HTC’s One and One X will be able to download the Facebook Home app on 12 April 12 and customise those handsets.
It’s an interesting ploy by Facebook. Who, in this hyper-connected social media world wouldn’t want to have their mobile Web served to them in the social network 1bn people call home?
It seems, at first glance, like an assault on Google. And that’s exactly what it is. Both companies are fighting to be the portal into the Web, where the gatekeeper can keep you locked into a walled garden.
Google always seems to point you towards its social media network, Google+, doesn’t it? Google products appear higher in searches and when you are pointed at another website, no doubt it features Google ads, earning revenue for you-know-who.
But Facebook is taking the fight to mobile networks, too, as well as messaging services such as Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat and others. SMS is still a huge profit centre for networks.
The proof will be in the pudding, and this is going to be a fast-baking dessert. In a few months, we should know how successful Facebook has been with Home and with the HTC First.