Facebook just unveiled Home, a new app which more or less takes over the user experience on phones running Google’s Android operating system.
The whole point of Android is to get people to use Google’s services, like Gmail and Google Web search. Home basically kills that.
Home shows updates and notifications from friends on the phone’s home screen. It also provides one-tap access to the Facebook mobile app and Facebook Messenger.
Finally, there’s an app launcher, to help you get to everything else you might want to do on your phone.
What’s missing? Search.
People have already noticed how users are searching less, as mobile devices and apps command more and more of their time. Already, Facebook and Instagram account for about a quarter of time spent on mobile devices, Zuckerberg said. Facebook Home will presumably encourage them to spend even more time on Facebook services.
Search is not going away, but it’s becoming less and less the metaphor for how people interact with computing devices. When you want to find a restaurant nearby, you use Foursquare or Yelp. When you’re checking out houses in a neighbourhood, you use Zillow’s app.
And by putting your friends front and centre, Facebook puts another layer of activity between mobile users and Google’s ubiquitous search box.
Google has two answer to this. One is Google Now, an intelligent assistant which extracts data from your email and calendar to present information you might be interested in, like an upcoming appointment or a change in your flight’s schedule. But Facebook Home offers a far more compelling alternative—what’s happening now in your friends’ lives.
The other is Google+, its Facebook clone. But Google+ hasn’t drawn nearly enough activity from enough users to provide a complete picture of one’s social sphere for most people.
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