Facebook wants to take over your mobile phone experience. And it’s also a parents’ nightmare.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook, just like many of the other tech giants, want to control consumers’ ecosystems. Apple, Microsoft, Google all battle it out in this effort, providing innovations that “lock” us into their environments with the ultimate goal of gaining market share across devices and services.
Facebook is jumping into this game and instead of unveiling a stand-alone Facebook-branded device, which is what many pundits were expecting, CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday unveiled Facebook Home, a super app which effectively bumps everything else off your home screen and turns your Android phone into a mobile Facebook portal.
So first, the features:
As soon as you turn on your phone, you will see Facebook Home’s Cover Feed, which is essentially your Facebook News Feed optimized for an Android smartphone. Photos, status updates, videos and links will all be there as soon as you hit the home button, with the emphasis on images that will fill your color-rich HD screen.
Facebook Home also takes over your Notifications feature, turning it into a constant stream of comments, Likes, check-ins, invitations and messages, just like you get now via e-mail, text, or when you log into your Facebook page.
Chat Heads, which is a one-stop destination for all your non-voice conversations, including texts and Facebook messages. The key feature of Chat Heads is that it’s always running in the background, which means you can jump in and out of chats even when you’re doing other things like watching a video or surfing the Web.
App Launcher, which is a reluctant admission by Facebook that you might want to do something else with your phone other than look at status updates all day. App Launcher allows you to reach all the other apps that reside on your phone. You can add app essentials, organize apps by screens, and do all the other things that you are used to doing when you’re not logged onto Facebook.
If you are a parent or caregiver you’re already feeling the chills, right? You are trying to guide your child into prudent use of screens, learning the balance between the useful, educational ones and the fun and entertaining ones that help you teach the value of work-reward-gratification.
Now Facebook will throw you this additional challenge, if you choose to pay for it, of having this environment at the center of your child’s mobile device. A screen dominated by images of friend’s posts and a constant stream of updates, likes, pokes to sort through before she can use her screen calculator, search for papers or access the school’s My Big Campus mobile app.
I say no. It’s not happening. Facebook is a great way to connect and to share – I have often touted the value of teaching kids as young as 12 how to use it with “training wheels,” meaning with the direct guidance of their parents for benefits such as self expression and to learn the very vital skill of using social networks – but there is a giant gap between my proactive and selective use of its benefits and making it my child’s primary ecosystem.
What do you think? Would you like to use a Facebook-centric phone?
Monica Vila is “Chief Technology Mom,” born and raised in Mexico and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a social community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family’s life.