Nikhil Kumar: The best things in life may be free...but I fear Facebook Home won't be
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Saturday 06 April 2013
US Outlook There was something missing from Facebook's much-hyped press conference earlier this week. Not the rumoured "Facebook phone", which turned out to be a beefed-up application that transforms an Android phone's home screen into an always-on Facebook feed. No, the real omission concerned the business of advertising, the source of Facebook's revenues.
The slick software is all well and good and, it should be said, cleverly conceived to work with an operating system that stretches across numerous manufacturers and handsets. Unlike Apple's iOS, which you'll only encounter on an Apple iPhone, Google's Android is there on your Samsung phone. And on the HTC phone you thought about buying. And on the LG phone your friend just bought. And on the Sony Phone you've heard about. And on so many other phones you've never even heard of.
But while he showed off the software on Thursday Mark Zuckerberg, who co-founded the social network at university and now helms the business, never once mentioned advertising. Nor, from what was shown during the presentation, was there any sign of any advertisements anywhere on Facebook Home, as the new software is known.
From what we saw, Facebook Home was all about keeping in touch with your friends all the time (which might present its own problems. Just saying). Except, the last time anyone checked, Facebook wasn't a charitable foundation set up to foster friendship and brotherhood among the world's peoples. Keeping in touch is great – as long as it offers a way for Facebook to cash in.
And so, unless it is in fact about to turn into a charity, it's only a matter of time before Facebook Home becomes a virtual hangout not just for you and your friends but also for the companies that want to sell things to you and your friends.
Among the features that were shown off on Thursday was the full-screen feed that continuously updates even when your phone is locked. Users need not click or tap in their passwords to access the feed. It's there. Always. A never-ending slide-show of photos showing the art gallery your best friend visited last night or the new vase your sister bought at the flea market over the weekend – or the museum café where your ex (whom you forgot to de-friend) went on a date.
It doesn't take much to imagine what advertisers might do with this billboard-in-your-pocket. In between slides of the heart-shaped dusting on your ex's cappuccino and your sister's new vase, there might be one advertising a private course in the fine arts. Or pottery, perhaps. If your GPS is switched on, and you just happen to be walking past a shop selling vases – well, you know the rest.
This is pure guesswork, of course. But the fact remains that the free Facebook Home software will be anything but. Users will eventually have to put up with something in return.
Right now, the emphasis has to be on attracting as many users as possible. Hence no mention of advertising. But users don't matter if they don't generate revenues. That's another fact – and one which matters more for Facebook now that it is a public company (a public company, moreover, whose shares remain lodged below its IPO price).
So download Facebook Home if you want. But be prepared.
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£77099.84 - £96375.26 per annum + Bonus + Benefits : Harrington Starr: My clie...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Package: Harrington Starr: Trading appli...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading prov...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading mark...