Facebook Pushes 'Home' Features to Apple
Facebook isn't yet launching a full version of Home for the iOS app, but the company's CTO and VP of Engineering Mike Schropfer told the All Things D's "Dive Into Mobile" conference that Facebook is in talks with Apple. On Tuesday, an update to the Facebook app for iPhone and iPad included the launch of the Home feature "Chat Heads."
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This app allows users to have a conversation with friends even when they're doing other things on Facebook, like checking a news feed or looking at photos. Unlike the Android version, it sounds like "Chat Heads" can't follow users outside the Facebook ecosystem—on phones with Google's Android, you can bring "Chat Head" messages into other apps, like Fandango. There is also another new feature—Facebook users can now paste "stickers" in their private messages with friends.
However, it's unclear how and whether Facebook be able to offer the full Home experience for Apple.
The reason why Home is only fully available on Android and not on Apple comes down to the fact that Android is fully open source, which allows any developer to create on the platform. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, who also took the stage at Dive Into Mobile on Tuesday, said of Home, "I think it's fantastic… This is what open source is all about."
The fact that Facebook can effectively take over Android phones without having to work directly with Google is a great thing for Facebook. It's clear that the immersive Home experience works best on its platform. However, despite Schmidt's enthusiasm, there are serious questions about whether putting Google's tools in the background could be a problem for Google down the line.
The reviews of Home have been mediocre. It only has a rating of 2.3 out of 5 stars on Google's Android store, based on nearly 4,400 reviews. Over 2,000 reviews gave it a rating of just one star. In contrast, Facebook's Messenger app has a rating of 4.5 stars on the Google store.
New ads showcasing the Home app have drawn a lot of attention, but have also drawn criticism. The consensus is that they're "weird"—one shows a Facebook employee tuning out during a speech by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as he imagines a goat bleating in Zuckerberg's face. And many bloggers have attacked the spots for encouraging users to tune out from what's happening around them.
But even if Facebook home isn't a big hit here in the U.S.—and isn't available to iPhone users—it may not really matter for Facebook's bottom line.
Home is really a play for the social network to become the home screen for users in international markets, where users have little or no access to desktop computers. And, while Facebook has permeated the social networking market here, the potential for growth is overseas.
With that in mind, Home hasn't yet been put to the test. Now it'll go head-to-head with start-ups like WhatsApp and WeChat in Europe and Asia. We'll see if on the International stage it can convince users, that there's no place like Home.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin