Even if you don't like Facebook, you have to like what Home is doing (especially if you're Google)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Even if you don't like Facebook, you have to like what Home is doing (especially if you're Google)
We understand that there are plenty of you out there who don't like Facebook, and we want to make something clear right off the bat: your feelings about Facebook as a service have no bearing on the argument we're laying out here. Facebook Home launched today on a few Android devices. It had a bit of a rough start, and as we all expected, it's really made for the high-functioning Facebook junkie and not really anyone else. However, the idea behind Facebook is one that we should all pay attention to.

Until now, there have been two separate beasts in the Android world: manufacturer skins and alternative launchers/homescreens. Samsung phones have TouchWiz, HTC has Sense, etc.; and, any user could also hop into the Play Store and grab a different launcher if the look of their device didn't sit well. All manufacturer skins essentially follow the stock Android template with various additions and style changes. Most alternative launchers follow this same template as well, with notable exceptions like SF Launcher, which gives you a more Google Now style, or Launcher 7/8, which give you a Windows Phone 7/8 look. Many alternative launchers offer theme support, but that essentially just means different icon packs and backgrounds. 

What Facebook has done with Home is something wholly new, even if it doesn't work perfectly and isn't for everyone. Sure, it would be nice to have widgets, faster access to the camera, and a few other features in Home. But, Facebook is one of the few companies that has taken the openness and customizability that Google built into Android and has pushed that idea farther than anyone else. This isn't a new take on Android, this is just flat out something new. And, we think that is a really good thing, because the argument that something different will hurt Android or Google doesn't make sense anymore. 

Android (and Google) have nothing to fear

Look, there was a long period of Android's life where there were constant complaints about "fragmentation" (a word which we have sworn off around here). Setting aside the OS update issues, the main argument of "fragmentation" was that no two Android devices look or perform the same way. This was a valid argument back when Android was still and up-and-comer in the mobile world, but Android isn't a contender anymore, it has claimed the spot at the top of the hill. Android isn't a small platform that can get taken down by something new. It is the most popular platform around that got that way because it offered something new, and something that could always be changed

Worldwide, 75% of smartphones are Android devices, and with the exception of some eye candy and the inclusion of Google Apps (and the MIUI devices in China which do away with the app tray), they all look and act about the same. If you want to be flippant about it, most of the Android handsets out there are Samsung devices anyway, and TouchWiz is TouchWiz. But, just because one device has the stock icons and one has the TouchWiz icons doesn't mean that users can't understand Android. Android may have a lot of power-user features hidden under the hood, but for the majority of users Android works mostly the same as iOS, just with widgets, (which HTC claims the majority of users don't even use anyway). 

Facebook coming in with a UI that is completely different from the traditional Android experience doesn't hurt Android at all, because Facebook Home is completely optional. You won't have it on your device unless you specifically choose to install it, or to purchase a device like the HTC First, where it is baked-in. And, even if you purchase a device like the First, you can still disable Facebook Home and have a stock Android experience. Isn't this exactly what we've been asking for with manufacturer skins: the ability to turn them off?

Facebook Home gives you that option. If you don't want it, you don't have it. Even on the HTC First, if you don't want Facebook Home, you'll still have a solid mid-range device with LTE that's running stock Android. That's not too bad for $99. If you do have it, you should know what you're in for with it, because it was your choice to get it. And, in the meantime, it is showing us just how different things can be with Android. Remember: Google created Android this way for a reason

A homescreen revolution?

Google created Android to be open and highly customizable. If you don't like the SMS app, dialer, calendar apps or anything else, just change them. If you don't like the launcher, change it. Of course, there's more than one reason why someone wouldn't like the launcher. It could be that the stock launcher doesn't allow for backing up your homescreen layouts, or get some different animations, or icon packs. Basically, there are two reasons you choose an alternate laucher: 1) you want more functionality, or 2) you want it to look different. 

As we said, so far, different just means a new icon pack or wallpaper, or at the most, you can find a launcher that mimics a different platform. There are almost no launcher options that are trying to create something new. Facebook Home does that, so why not other companies? There are certainly power users on Twitter who would go for a similar experience. Personally, I'd love to try out a Google+ version of Home, because that's where I spend my social networking time. Any app that has high usage rates from the top users, like Instagram, Foursquare, or Feedly could simply copy the basic idea that Facebook has laid out, and run with it. Maybe neither apps nor people should be first, maybe you'd rather it be photos, places, or news.

Or, maybe it needn't be any of those. We've already seen a number of variations on the idea of what a smartphone UI should be between BlackBerry (legacy and BB10), iOS, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, Android, Firefox, Tizen, Ubuntu, and all of the rest. The thing is that Android can look and feel like any of these, or none. The fact that launchers like SF Launcher or Launcher 7/8 exist proves that Android can look like anything at all, and we're hoping that Facebook Home is the kick that gets designers to realize that. 


There are plenty of people out there who love how Android looks and feels. Just take a look through the Facebook Home reviews and you'll see a number of annoyed users who found that Facebook had removed things about Android that they loved. Obviously, the idea of a Google+ Home, Twitter Home, Feedly Home, or Foursquare Home won't appeal to everyone, but they don't have to. 

There are already a couple of interesting launcher alternatives in the Play Store, like Buzz Launcher, which allows you to create, share, and download homescreen packs that can completely change the look and feel of your device. But there are very few others that take real chances and try to break the current homescreen idea the way that Facebook Home has. And, it doesn't matter how few people would be interested in it, because this is Android. It's all about choice, but you can't choose what doesn't exist yet.



1. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

No complaints here. This gives me and everyone else who wants a stock Android phone an easier avenue to get there. I am "tech knowledgeable", not really "tech savvy", so I am pleased to have this option. I am a Windows Phone fan, but am very amused with choices. For those that live,eat, and breathe social networks, this is a welcome addition to the Android Army. Facebook is something I am tired of, but they are not stupid. This will be successful.

2. androidTaker unregistered

I don't like Facebook home. I have my own home. Why should I go to Mark Zuckerburg's home?

4. nobelset

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

._. lol...

33. Avicktim

Posts: 22; Member since: Apr 09, 2013

That was whack..

3. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Once again, nice article by Michael. I guess these are called editorials? Dont really know. This is one of the few times I dont agree with ya. lol. I dont like what Facebook Home is doing. Unless...Facebook Home is completely uninstallable, and can be installed on any Android phone. If thats the case...its the first step towards OEM UI's showing up in the Play Store.

5. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Why so they can track or see what im doing on my phone. No thank u

6. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

That was a bit boring and repetitive, Michael, sorry.... And, I don't want any part of FB Home.

7. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Sorry Michael, I don't want FB home, not even a single word! This article makes me feel like they're pointing a gun on my head, and forcing me to say "I want FB home". If FB home really needs to be on my phone (Android), then sorry, I will change to Windows Phone right away. I'm serious!

8. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

How does this editorial say anything forcing you to want FB Home? The whole point is that it's all a choice and I'd like to see more choices of non-conventional launchers.

10. TheLolGuy

Posts: 483; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

Michael, I feel bad for you. It seems like every time you put up an article like this no one seems to understand your stance. You always try to establish neutrality but it always flies over heads. Too many emotions cloud their comprehension...

11. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Michael, I didn't say this editorial is forcing me to want FB Home, I only said I don't like it, it makes me feel like Facebook is pointing a gun at my head and forcing me to say "I want FB Home". Why do I feel like this? Because the title says "Even if you don't like Facebook, you have to like what Home is doing (especially if you're Google)". The title feels like Facebook is forcing me........ I didn't say it was you, I didn't say it was this editorial. It was the title!

18. blazee

Posts: 414; Member since: Jan 02, 2012

i think youre just confused by the English language lol

19. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Maybe I am, cuz English is not my native language......

23. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The title could be read that way if you don't bother to read the full article. But the point is much different once you get into the piece itself.

26. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Yes, I have read the full article. And yes, I admit that I misunderstood the whole article, sorry about that!

9. TheLolGuy

Posts: 483; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

I feel like none of the commenters so far even understood the point of the article. First of all, it's completely optional. Even on the 'dedicated' phone HTC First. If you can install it from the Play Store then obviously you can uninstall it as well... (@jroc74) Second, he was more focusing on the fact that Facebook has really brought close to Amazon-levels of modding that really gives you a more unique interface and not 'lite' skins from other partners. I agree with Michael -- I can't wait to see some very ambitious deviations for a fresh experience. Even if I'm only trying it out temporarily. "our feelings about Facebook as a service have no bearing on the argument we're laying out here"

12. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Dude, this is nobody's fault, it was just the title. The title feels like forcing!

15. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

The title did not say that you must like facebook home, but that you must appreciate the possibility of changing the launcher in android IF YOU WANT TO, and that FB home takes this concept to the limit, creating a new breed of more evoluted and dynamic launchers where other companies will probably create more interesting products that you might also like, and that anyway you're not forced to use if you don't. And that this is good for android in any case, because it's the only os where you can do this and so it's an advantage over wp and ios. You did not even read the article IMO.

25. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The title says "you have to like what Home IS DOING" not "you have to like Home"

27. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Ok sorry about that, I misunderstood the title and the article. I'm sorry!

13. Wiki_jaan

Posts: 704; Member since: Jun 24, 2012

whats nxt.... twitter Home or may be twitter building

14. nerdylish

Posts: 51; Member since: Apr 13, 2013

Sorry, Michael. I don't agree on the fact that Google has nothing to fear. By asserting itself as the main interface on Android phones, Facebook gets to decide the default choices for which messaging systems to use (Facebook’s), which photo galleries to use (Facebook’s) and eventually which search engine to use (Facebook’s partner Microsoft), which advertising to display (Facebook’s) and which apps and games to favor (Facebook’s). Google is surely losing the upper hand.

16. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

This is true. Fb home might be good for android users, but not for google. Google is interested in spreading google apps, and android is their trojan horse.

22. Lboogey6

Posts: 281; Member since: Jan 31, 2012

people its just an option he's just saying it provides a different experience for users who love simplicity and facebook its neat its different im trying it out do i love it not really do i hate it no i see where some people can like it. chatheads i will say is pretty awesome. but really isnt that serious. good article mike

24. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'm working on another editorial about this exact argument. Spoliers: I disagree with you.

28. dmakun

Posts: 382; Member since: Jun 06, 2011

Another fine article Michael, I agree with every point in it. Surely the availability & possibility to choose/change how one wants his/her device to function and look is the attraction that drives innovation in the android ecosystem. My hope is that soon OEMs will add their unique skins on top of android in a manner similar to the Facebook home launcher (at least to turn it off completely when one prefers alternative skins/launchers).

30. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

That's what I like about android is that it can be almost anything

31. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Always an interesting read, as well as insightful editorialization, MIchael. They haven't made you Editor-In-Chief yet???

32. ahhxd717

Posts: 332; Member since: Dec 08, 2011

Don't try to reason with these people. Well most of them. I wholly agree with you, Michael. What bothers me is that all the Android purists/fanatics praise Android for being so open and being able to do anything, etc., but they always are like "STOCK ANDROID OR NOTHING AT ALL!!!!". Well if you want an untouched, non customizable device, maybe you don't like android that much at all in reality. People always bash companies for actually utilizing Androids openness, while still trying to praise Google for creating such an open, customizable OS- this being a prime example. Facebook is actually taking full advantage of what Android offers, in a way that other companies haven't really done before. Nobody is forcing a Facebook phone on you, or forcing you to go to the play Store and download this launcher. So instead of freaking out about this, at least think about the flexibility and openness of android involved in building Facebook Home. If you think Android is meant to be untouched, pure, and whatnot, maybe look into WP8. Or choose an Android phone that doesn't have a Launcher. It's reslly simple.

34. itreday

Posts: 68; Member since: May 24, 2012

Majority of the people in my area age group (16-22) has moved to twitter..

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