Facebook Home: A prettier Motoblur

Facebook Home: A prettier Motoblur

Summary: Facebook unveiled the Home app designed to let the social network take over your Android home screen. A few years ago the failed Motoblur tried to do the same thing.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Android, Apps
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Facebook Home screen
Facebook Home. (Image: ZDNet)

Mark Zuckerberg proudly showed off Facebook's new Home app recently; an Android home screen replacement that pushes network updates to the phone. Facebook Home is designed to provide a constant stream of your friends' updates right on both the lock screen and home screen of your Android phone. It pushes Android firmly behind the Facebook action on phones that can run the app.

Demos of Facebook Home show it to be a slick presentation of what is ordinarily seen on either the Facebook website or in mobile apps. There is a constant stream of all the latest updates and photos posted to the user's news stream on Facebook. It makes following the social network updates automatic, with no action required by the user. Your friends' updates are pushed to the phone constantly, and all you have to do is sit there and watch them unfold.

The reality may soon set in for Facebook Home users as it did for Motoblur users of yesteryear — it's not always a good thing when the social network takes over the phone.

This may sound familiar to long-time Android phone users, especially those who owned early Android phones by Motorola Mobility. Those phones ran a social network streaming service from Motorola called Motoblur. Motoblur was a set of Android widgets put on the home screen and designed to display a steady stream of network updates all the time.

If that sounds a lot like Facebook Home, it's because it was. Motoblur took it even further by streaming not only Facebook updates, but those from Twitter, MySpace, news and weather services. A constant dose of updates, both social network and news of interest, flashed on the Android home screen.

Motoblur
Motoblur. (Image: Motorola Mobility)

Motorola made this work by tapping into user configured social networks and passing them through its own Motoblur servers. The updates were all aggregated on the server side to keep the processing required at the phone level to a minimum. Even with this aggregation, Motoblur often made the phones of that time slow down to a crawl due to the constant activity going on behind the streaming display. Phones running Motoblur also tended to get poor battery life due to the constant network updating and displaying.

This overhead on the phone led to widespread criticism of Motoblur, as users constantly complained about the interference with phone operation and poor battery life on phones running it. Over time, Motorola toned it down from the total domination of the Android home screen at launch until it was just a fraction of its designed usefulness in reaction to this criticism. This led to Motorola dropping Motoblur development entirely in 2010.

The initial reaction to Motoblur when it was first announced was similar to that of Facebook Home after the launch announcement and demos. Many of us are deeply integrated with our social networks, and having our friends' updates pushed to our phone is compelling at first.

The reality may soon set in for Facebook Home users as it did for Motoblur users of yesteryear — it's not always a good thing when the social network takes over the phone. Sure, the regular Android functionality will still be there, albeit buried under the Facebook functions that will take over the home screen. One of the biggest draws of Android is the ability to customize the home screens to provide a user experience tailored to the individual. That will be totally lost with Facebook Home.

The constant stream of Facebook updates may take an unexpected toll on users. From the demos, it's clear that in addition to the text updates, Facebook Home will be pushing a lot of photos to the phone. Those updates may very well hit phone data plans pretty hard. That will also likely drain phone batteries faster than ever before.

Facebook may soon discover that the massive overhead required to push constant streams to millions of Facebook Home users is much bigger than expected. Conversations with Motorola employees tasked with keeping the Motoblur servers running made it clear that it was difficult to keep up with the massive amounts of data being continually pushed to Motoblur phones. Facebook is already sending data on demand to lots of phones running its mobile apps, but pushing millions of streams constantly may tax things to the limit.

All of that data moving from Facebook to millions of home screens is going to be massive, and carriers will be bearing the brunt of it. That may be fine at first, but if Facebook Home gets adopted by tens of millions of Android phone owners, it's going to get very expensive for the carriers. It may eventually be necessary to recover the cost of data delivery from users. Perhaps a Facebook Home data charge may come to most carriers, and thus, to customer phone bills.

People love Facebook, and they may end up liking Facebook Home too. That's not a given, however, if history is an indication.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Apps

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10 comments
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  • OH is that what Motoblur was

    Seemed a complete waste of time so I ignored it totally.

    So yes, I agree, exactly like "Home"
    Little Old Man
  • Facebook Home Carrier Charge?

    All of that data moving from Facebook to millions of home screens is going to be massive, and carriers will be bearing the brunt of it. That may be fine at first, but if Facebook Home gets adopted by tens of millions of Android phone owners it's going to get very expensive for the carriers. It may eventually be necessary to recover the cost of data delivery from users.

    Umm, very few people have unlimited data anymore, and this phone is not very likely to appeal to those that do. Therefore, the data to run Facebook Home will come out of the user's monthly allotment. Of course, the first time that a user busts their data allotment and gets hit with extra charges will be the time that Facebook Home gets taken off the phone, too!
    jglopic
  • motoblur

    I have a phone with motoblur, but lately my weather is not bein updated, I wen tto it yesterday (Thursday), and it was still showing Monday's data! I had to popen it and go between the two locations I keep as favorites, to get both updated. Not beina FB memeber, I will not have FB Home on my phone. That would be too much activity to keep up with.
    I don't even know what MB is good for, it just comes up when I restart the phone as advised every other charge. I saw something yesterday about restarting the phone daily, that is too much, I don't do that at work on the computer even. Every week, not every day. The phone charge lasts about 2-3 days, so it would be almost weekly restating the phone as well.
    For us old fogeys w/o grandchildren there is no reason to have FB, sure the Feds are on FB and I am a Federal employee, still don't have a reason for it.
    So I disagree that it will be such a problem.
    dhays
  • "if Facebook Home gets adopted by tens of millions of Android phone owners"

    Are that many people that stupid?
    Well,........probably.
    Userama
    • yup...

      Yes they are you saw millions of idiots voted twice for the king of Morons Obama and smiled while he kills our economy and trys to steal our rights. The people on facebook are just as stupid..Scarey isnt it.
      Fletchguy
  • Not needed

    Really not needed
    Randalllind
  • With replacement of SMS built in, surprised a carrier would support it

    If it succeeds, it puts FB's messaging service in the forefront ... carriers make such a high profit margin from SMS, I'm surprised that AT&T would jump on this. I wonder what the balancing profit is for them, do they imagine? (or, maybe they think that users will still pay for SMS services, since not everyone will use FB messaging?)
    daboochmeister
  • What won't Facebook access?

    I got rid of the Facebook app on my phone long ago. It wasn't content to run when I wanted it to and close when I didn't, it stayed up and would have one of its background services respawn it if I force-closed it. It wanted access to my contacts, my texts, my GPS data, my SD card...everything. Messenger was the same way, and while a third party messenger app is perfectly content to run with nothing but network access, Messenger crashes if I use Permission Denied to prevent it from scrolling my contacts and determining my location. Ultimately, I started using the third party app for IM use and the mobile site (via network-only Firefox) to get to Facebook.

    Facebook I'm certain doesn't care about me, for they have millions upon millions who don't even try to keep their private data private.

    Joey
    voyager529@...
  • Ick...

    God awful motoblur. You have no idea how many people would ask me to get that off their phones. The entire concept was stupid and just made motorola phones look like garbage. I hated motoblur almost as much as facebook and twitter.
    Fletchguy
  • DOA

    Facebook Home is DOA. Few people like Facebook that much, and many even find push notifications annoying. Facebook is the kind of thing that's great when you want it, but you don't want it in your way the rest of the time.

    I think Perlow wrote something about FB Home as an Android fragmentation bomb. He was right about the bomb part.
    urbandk