The rumors of a Facebook phone have been around for years now. And with each new mobile app or functionality that Facebook launched-- Facebook Messenger, Facebook Camera, Facebook Messenger with voice calling... the noise grew louder. But the question always remained: a Facebook phone sure seems great for Facebook, but why is it great for us?
Finally on Thursday Mark Zuckerberg walked on stage and gave us our answer in the form of Facebook Home. Its not a phone, he said, its a whole new way of experiencing mobile. Its a paradigm shift from apps to people. Its the way mobile social was always supposed to be. Oh and by the way, its the best version of Facebook yet.
Well therein lies the rub. Mark Zuckerberg did unveil a beautiful vision for the future of mobile. The immersive cover feed seems like we could get lost in it for hours. Elevating chat above the app layer is a stroke of brilliance that changes the meaning of multitasking. It certainly feels right to be looking at people and actions, not apps.
But by its very nature, the Facebook phone-- or loader or whatever you want to call it-- is a contradiction. It simply turns your smartphone into one big Facebook app, suppressing almost anything but Facebook's already people-first behavior. Its a glorified app at the expense of how people really exist today-- as a multitude of experiences and behaviors across a wide variety of platforms and ecosystems.
You see, people today don't just want to communicate on Facebook. They want to stream news on Twitter, express themselves on Tumblr, explore on Foursquare and more. A Facebook phone can never really become the world's first truly people-first phone unless it embraces every way people really communicate. Facebook, on its own, cannot be a phone for the people.
Mark Zuckerberg mentioned several times on Thursday how Facebook Home wouldn't have been possible without the amazing commitment by Google to make Android open. If Zuckerberg really wants to be the champion of a people-first mobile future he should match that by building Facebook Home to embrace all of the other interactions, on Facebook or otherwise, that people want to have. THAT will be the best version of Facebook yet.