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Why Facebook Home failed, and why it will succeed

If you are a product manager at a highly visible service, especially in social media, you need to have a thick skin these days. First the media hypes up your product like crazy, then once released they completely bash you unless your new feature/product is not an instant success .

Facebook Home has been touted as something very revolutionary, that may displace Google’s hold on Android phones, displace handset makers, etc etc. But Facebook Home is nothing more than a launcher or shell app, and there are plenty of them in the market, so this is nothing revolutionary.  What is revolutionary is that the shell app is built on the back of the world’s leading social network.

My first experience with it was certainly disappointing in many ways, which describes a bit on why they have bombed initially.

CONTEXT is huge. On Mobile its everything

The mobile device is the ultimate personal device. It’s use cases are huge and ever expanding. Thinking you can control all the aspects of the phone is a huge mistake, and should not be attempted by anyone.

Home’s feature set are certainly cool, and I love the idle screen run through of the newsfeed. But I hated how they supposedly give you access to your apps. By an act of tinkering around not really knowing what I was doing, I was finally able to bring back the best of my shell app (SPB Shell) and combine it with FB Home. I.e. once I go to my apps, SPB shell takes over.

Moreover, I was able to activate the instant reply function from GO SMS so that when I do get a message I can reply right away without any clicks whatsoever – even if the phone is locked. Time saving features such as this is crucial for mobile phones in my opinion, and may not be in the DNA for someone in the kill time business to make.

In short, FB Home tried to control everything when it should not. While you can bastardize FB Home with various other shell apps, it is obviously not the best user experience (for anyone but tech geeks).

So what can they do?

EVOLVE and use the best from everywhere

FB Home should evolve so that you can cherry pick what parts you like. Break down the user experience on a phone (browse apps, take pictures, make a call, reply to  SMS, browse the web, check time, weather, stocks etc) and learn from the best in that regards.

For instance, why not widgetize a lot of the FB Home features to work within other shell apps? The complete lack of widgets here is actually puzzling, but I expect them to come.  But don’t put news feed posts in my weather widget for instance. Again, it is about the right context.

Facebook Home has the potential to become a huge asset for Facebook once they refine it. And why the press may give them hell for a 2 star rating now, remember the initial FB app got a 1 star rating. In the era of the lean startup and lean product development, large companies should be applauded for following the methodology, not get bashed 2 weeks into the launch because they did not meet the expectations that were set from everyone else but probably Facebook themselves.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this post are mine and do not reflect the views of any clients or companies I am currently working for or have worked for.

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