Mat Honan thinks Facebook might have a success with Facebook Home, because it is so timid that it will appeal to people afraid of the Web.
The long rumored Facebook phone turned out not to be a phone at all. Or even a new OS or a fork of the Android operating system like Amazon’s Kindle Fire. It’s something more than an application, and slightly less than an operating system. As Wired.com editor Mark McClusky described it, Facebook Home is an “apperating system.” The genius of the Facebook phone is that the company made a phone without making a phone at all. It’s not overly ambitious. It’s not a big bet. And that’s why it may have such a huge payoff.
Over the past few days, lots of pundits have been asking who this is for. Facebook gave us an answer today: It’s for people who don’t care about a rich, full experience on the Internet, yet love Facebook. People who want to run apps, but are overwhelmed by them. People who want to connect with friends and family, but want it to be super easy to do so. For many people, Facebook is the Internet, just as AOL was before it. And just as Facebook is the best way for them to experience the Internet in a browser, Facebook Home is going to be the best way for those people to experience the Internet on a phone.
As I wrote in 2010, Facebook Is The New AOL:
Facebook is managing the chaos of social interaction on the web, normalizing it and standardizing it for us, just as AOL made the web neat and tidy. That seemed a winning proposition in the late ’90s, which led to astonishing valuations for AOL. They acquired Time-Warner using that wealth, and in 2002 Time-Warner wrote off $600M as AOL started to fall. Now, AOL has been spun out, and has no central role in our experience of the web. 10 years is a long time. Time-Warner is now the second largest entertainment company in the world.
The moral of this story is that you can make a business out of simplifying what is chaotic and confusing, but only at the outset. As people become habituated to what at first was scary and headache-inducing, they will move away from controlled experience to more personally managed negotiation of the world.
‘But, all my friends are on Facebook!’ That was true in 1999 about AOL, too. All my friends had AIM accounts, so it was the best place for instant messaging. Until Yahoo and MSN offered audio and then video, and blogging broke loose. And then everything changed with broadband.