Mike Isaac

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Content, Content Everywhere in Facebook’s Ideal Mobile World

ZuckerbergProfileApps are so last year. The future, according to Facebook, is people, photos, messages and sweet, sweet content.

The company pulled back the cover on its Android initiative at an event at its Menlo Park campus on Thursday, showing off “Home,” Facebook’s vision for how the hundreds of millions of Facebook users will interact with their mobile devices.

Yes, it’s essentially Facebook-izing your phone, a different interface to access your apps and personal connections.

“What would it look like if our phones were designed around people, not apps?” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the event.

But it’s way more than that. Facebook wants to blur the lines between individual applications and the way you interact with your device, interweaving different Facebook services — and, ultimately, Facebook content — throughout all parts of the Android phone. The two most significant ways of doing that are with “Chat Heads” and “Cover Feed,” two entirely new conceits that come with the installation of Facebook Home.

The real gem here, however, is Cover Feed — basically a non-stop flow of photos, status updates and Facebook content flowing through your phone, whether you’re using it or not. The lock screen and home screen no longer exist as static repositories for applications. Power on your phone, and you’ll be subject to a never-ending cascade of everything flowing through your News Feed.

Think of the possibilities here. Instead of having to access your Facebook app directly on your mobile device to view the News Feed, Facebook will always have its content stuck front and center, right in your face. It’s the answer to our massive shift to accessing the Web via our mobile devices over the desktop.

That, my friends, is where the money comes in. As Zuckerberg said (very quickly) at the event, “there are no ads in [Cover Feed] yet.” But — and this is a big but! — “I’m sure at some point there will be,” he followed up.

ZuckPhoneThink about that for a second. How valuable would it be for you, as an advertiser, to have your ad cycled in front of tens of thousands of faces staring at their phone’s home screen? What about small-time app developers who want Facebook’s mobile app install ad suggestions in front of potential customers? This is huge.

And I imagine at some point, when ads do show up on the device, Facebook could subsidize the phones to make them cheap, if not entirely free. (Not today, though. Still costs a hundred bucks to get an out-of-the-box Facebook phone.)

Messaging, too, carries with it a great deal of potential. Chat Heads essentially makes mobile messaging on the phone a persistent service; instead of a notification that goes away at the top of your screen, a small bauble icon featuring your friend’s head will pop up to the right-hand side, overlaid on top of the screen regardless of whether you’re in an app or the home screen.

Now look at how other major messaging competitors like WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk are using their messaging services. You’re able to insert photos, videos and in some cases small mobile games into the messaging application. Zynga, too, is rumored to be in talks with some companies to promote its games inside of some of these messaging apps.

So think of this future. A Facebook phone in every hand, with content circulating throughout its messaging capabilities, its lock screen, its home screen. It is non-stop Facebook — in your face — all the time. It is Facebook escaping being relegated to a mere app, invading every facet of your mobile experience. It is a potential boon for ad dollars, for partnerships, for additional outside content.

Now, all Facebook needs is for you — and all of your Android-loving friends — to install Home on your phones, and to get Home capable of running on more and more Android devices.

Time to get to work.

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