Monday, April 22, 2013

Facebook Home: Privacy fears or a sign of decline?

As reported across the tech news sites, Facebook Home hit 500,000 downloads in the first 5 days. However, techcrunch gave some perspective. It noted that Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) had "over 5 million downloads in six days". So what is holding people back?

One possible issue is privacy. As noted in this previous post, the younger generation is privacy savvy and is opting for apps like SnapChat that don't retain pics and other personal info. So it may be possible that the not-so-hidden-cost of privacy is too high a price to pay. And many commentators have noted that this issue with respect to Facebook Home. As noted in this blogpost by GigaOm's founder, Om Malik, fears Facebook's past privacy issues will be especially problematic if Facebook can capture (and monetize) one location data. As pointed out by this can be turned off, but how many people are not going to use the map feature of their phones to keep this private?

On the other hand, is Facebook as popular as it used to be? Speaking to a colleague at work, he notes that his "tween" son is using... (drum roll please)... Google Plus! Yes, that's right Google Plus - the social network that people mocked as a possible Facebook competitor is now being picked up (anecdotally) by the youth. Although this may be anecdotal evidence, Facebook last redesign was viewed by some as an imitation of Google Plus. For Facebook's version of the story check here:

Overall, it's quite fascinating how the social media sites and tech companies wax and wane in popularity. Remember RIM? The company that could do wrong, now is on fighting (one could argue valiantly, but that could be the nostalgia in me talking.) for spot number 3 in the smartphone wars. Of course the biggest giant to fall from the public's favour is Apple with it's stock sliding from a height of $705 to a current price of just under $400.

However, as pointed out by Horace Dediu on this podcast, Facebook has effectively circumvented Google by making this the home screen on Google's real estate. He has good analysis of the whole supply chain, making an analogy of Facebook's strategy to Intel's strategy of "Intel Inside":

Furthermore, GM's back as an advertiser on Facebook. They made an exit last year, but has returned "and will take advantage of Facebook’s new mobile targeting features". So despite the slow number of downloads and potential privacy issues Facebook Home is hardly down and out.

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