Facebook Home and Dogfooding

Josh Constine, writing for AOL/TechCrunch:

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. […]

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.

Constine is jumping to some unsupported conclusions here. Is it possible that Facebook Home has fallen flat on Android because it was designed by iPhone users? That’s certainly possible. But more likely, it seems to me, is that Facebook Home is just a bad idea. As I said last week, it’s a well-designed implementation of an idea no one wants. Would iPhone users want this? I can’t see why. And if the problem is that Facebook Home designers are iPhone users, it might explain why they didn’t see the appeal of widgets, but how would it explain the lack of a persistent app dock or app folders? The iPhone has those. I suspect most iPhone users would miss them if they were able to install Facebook Home.

Facebook Home isn’t an iPhone idea. It’s just a bad idea. Facebook is an app, not a platform. A good home screen interface is one that accommodates any app or service, not just one.

There is a dogfooding lesson here, though. Does Mark Zuckerberg carry an HTC First, or any other Android phone with Facebook Home installed? Does Mike Matas? (Doesn’t look like it, judging by the “via Twitter for iPhone” metadata on his recent tweets.) Why not?

It’s always a sign of trouble when you’ve built something you don’t want to use yourself. Why does everyone I know who works at Apple carry an iPhone? Every single one? Not because they have to. It’s because they want to.

Turn Facebook Home into an interface that Facebook designers and engineers want to use, not merely feel obligated to use, and then they’ll have something. But if it remains something that even Facebook’s own designers and engineers do not prefer over the iPhone (or stock Android, or any other platform), if it remains something that the company needs propaganda posters to promote even among its own employees, then Facebook Home will remain what it is now. A dud.

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