Facebook Home team disbands, Android homescreen replacement not dead...for now
Few people could possibly remember Facebook Home – Facebook's own Android-based mobile platform for smartphones. It was launched last year with more than moderate fanfare but the software has never made it big since then. It won't be surprising if Facebook itself comes out to tell the world that Facebook Home is dead.
Dead is what it is, at least, unofficially. A new report coming from the New York Times cites two sources who asked to remain anonymous and said Facebook has disbanded its original Facebook Home team as developers have moved to work on more profitable projects. Former Facebook Home lead designer Joey Flynn, for instance, has gone over to work on Slingshot, Facebook's photo app that required users to share photos to view photos. Another Home lead, Adam Mosseri has moved on to become Facebook's director for product.
But Facebook, which isn't exactly afraid of killing off unprofitable apps and features such as the Snapchat clone Poke and the Camera app which seemed useless with Facebook having acquired Instagram, denies the issue.
"There is a team working on Home and the experience is still supported and available in Google Play Store," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson also said Facebook regularly rotates its developers to different projects, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if the original developers in one project have left the team and moved on to the next.
Facebook Home was once one of Facebook's biggest attempts to capture the mobile market and integrate its features into the overall smartphone experience. For instance, Home allowed users to flip through their friends' Facebook photos and send them private messages right on the home screen without having to open the stock Facebook application.
The first, and possibly the last, smartphone to run on Home was the extremely unsuccessful HTC First, which became a huge flop and was sent straight to the discount bin right on its first week. Facebook shifted its sights from a built-in mobile platform to a downloadable screen replacement app, but that didn't turn things around for the social network. Part of the reason why the app never became popular was it was compatible with only a few HTC and Samsung devices.
Shortly after that, Facebook took some of the app's best features, such as Chat Heads and Cover Feed, and placed them in the main Facebook app, signaling the start of Home's quick ride rolling downhill. Even Mark Zuckerberg himself admitted that "Home is slower in rolling out than I would have hoped."
Facebook hasn't formally buried Home just yet, but the signs of an impending demise are all there. In fact, it seems as though the team of developers working on Home has done nothing to improve the app's profitability. The app was last updated in January.
"It wasn't the right product at the right time for their customers. Facebook has always thought they could turn things around, but they haven't for whatever reason," says analyst Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.