Facebook’s iPhone Culture Builds An Overzealous Home On Android

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Apps, Facebook, GT, Social, Technology
Tags: ,

20130513-210637.jpg
Facebook didn’t realize just how important widgets,
docks, and app folders were to Android users, and
that leaving them out of Home was a huge mistake.
That’s because some of the Facebookers who built
and tested Home normally carry iPhones, I’ve
confirmed. Lack of “droidfooding” has left Facebook scrambling to add these features, whose absence
have led Home to just 1 million downloads since
launching a month ago. As I wrote in November, Facebook has
been desperately trying to get more employees
“droidfooding” — carrying and testing Android
devices. You can see the posters encouraging
employees to pick up a droid below. The issue was
that Facebook handed out iPhones to employees for years. Facebookers could request an Android
handset, but otherwise would basically get an Apple
phone by default. That wasn’t as dangerous years
ago when the iPhone still had more marketshare and
Facebook users, but since then Android has rocketed
into the lead. If Facebook wants to reach the largest audience, it needs employees living and breathing
Google’s mobile operating system. The lack of droidfooders didn’t have serious
consequences until Home, Facebook’s new
“apperating system”. It replaces the lock screen,
homescreen, and app launcher of compatible Android
phones with a Facebook-centric experience. It offers
Cover Feed, a big, beautiful way to browser the news feed the second you bring your phone out of sleep.
It’s missing the ability to build real-time information
widgets, put your most used apps in a persistently
visible dock, or organize your collection of apps into
folders. 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. On Thursday at Facebook headquarters, VP of
Engineering Cory Ondrejka and Director of Product
Adam Mosseri admitted this is a critical flaw in Home
— one that’s dissuading people from downloading or
actively using Home, and that’s inspiring the 1- and 2-
star reviews dragging down Home’s rating the Google Play store. Those reviews, and people’s unwillingness
to trade their personalized Android launcher for Home
has caused Facebook’s apperating system to slip far
down the charts. It’s dropped out of the top 100 apps
according to several analytics providers, as Sarah
Perez detailed yesterday. “There a lot of feedback that not having a Dock on
Home is an issue” said Ondrejka. So instead of
spending its first few monthly updates enriching
Home with a better status composer or starting to
monetize it with ads, Facebook’s team is
backtracking. Instead of pitching Home as something that ”replaces the lock screen and home screen”,
Facebook is shaving it down into a thinner layer on
top of your existing phone. To do that, first Facebook will offer a more in-depth
new user onboarding experience that illustrates
exactly how to access your other apps. Next, it will
introduce “Dock”, pictured on the right. It’s a way for
users to import their old navigation bar of their four
most frequently used apps. Mosseri tells me Facebook doesn’t want users to have to sacrifice the
work they did customizing their Android in order to
use Home. Eventually, expect Facebook to add an
app foldering system or folder importer to Home, as
well as a way to display widgets. “We wanted to ease the transition from your old
launcher to your new launcher,” said Moserri of the
planned changes. Facebook would have known to
make that s priority before Home launched, but its
iPhone culture meant there was no one to cry foul.
Team members didn’t have old launchers to transition from. Home has big potential. People who do get by its
shortcomings and settle into Home see a 25%
increase in the time they spend on Facebook. But it’s
stuck at under 1 million downloads and likely many
fewer active users because its overly aggressive
invasion of Android scares people away. Never has it been more apparent. If Facebook can’t
get Androids in more pockets at 1 Hacker Way, it will
continue to misstep in mobile.

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