At the beginning of April, Facebook put a huge show launching ‘Facebook Home’ – an Android application that changes the entire look and feel of any phone on which it is installed.
There was a huge press conference, attended by reporters from around the globe.
There were commercials.
There was a new phone from HTC, co-branded with Facebook and sold with the software installed.
In the month and a half since, Facebook Home has been a fairly embarrassing flop so far.
HTC had to cut the price of its phone to basically free.
Not many users users are downloading Home from Google’s App Store. Those are who do, don’t like it.
Meanwhile, analytics provider Distimo says momentum for ‘Home’ isn’t getting better; it’s getting worse.
So…what went wrong?
He believes that Android users rely on features like widgets, docks, and app folders, and that Facebook made a big mistake leaving them out.
That’s embarrassing for Facebook.
What’s more embarrassing for Facebook is the reason the Facebook Home left these features.
The Facebook Home team made a horrible, simple mistake before it began development of the product.
The people on the team didn’t use Android-by-itself enough before testing Android-with-Facebook-Home installed, says Constine.
The problem this created was that the Facebook Home development team was unfamiliar with the features that a normal Android user might get used to, and not want to lose when they installed Facebook Home.
Again, those features are docks, folders, and widgets.
When I first tried out Home, I admit I was wooed by Cover Feed and Chat Heads, while those absent Android personalizations didn’t phase me. Why? Because I’m an iPhone user.
First off, the iPhone doesn’t offer widgets at all, so I didn’t really know what I was missing. Second, I was running Home on a brand new loaner “Facebook Phone”, the HTC First. I didn’t expect to be able to port my iOS dock and folders to Android. I accepted that my experience would be somewhat unpersonalized. I was naive.
The real problem? Facebook’s developers were just as naive. Employees I’ve talked to admit that iPhone users testing Home made Facebook fail to see how wrong it was to overwrite people’s widgets, docks, and folders. Unlike working on some standard app, sticking a new Android device in an employee’s hand to test Home wasn’t sufficient. It needed long-time, diehard Android users — something Facebook doesn’t have as many of internally as it would like.