The Facebook Phone

I was sitting in a long meeting yesterday, and had completely forgotten about the “big” Facebook announcement, when I saw a live stream tweet come across my screen. Figuring I could watch a live blog, and still provide the appropriate engagement in the meeting I was in, launched the link. To my surprise, it wasn’t a late April Fool’s joke, Facebook was announcing their Facebook Phone.

Well not really a phone, but a new app launcher for Android, which would replace your default launcher and wrap you up in the Facebook experience. My first reaction was, oh no! Here we go again, we are going back to Q-Link, Prodigy, and AOL. A closed ecosystem whose goal was to keep you locked up in their space. Then I realized, no, it’s not that bad… it’s worse!

Facebook’s value is you as a data source. That is why it is free. And by wedging itself between you and your apps, messaging, and phone service, they gain even more information about you. I even tweeted my worst case thought. As an app developer, there is some value in using Facebook as a sign-in message. You can get access to your users’ information, timeline, etc. The social graph that I get on our Facebook page provides all kinds of neat demographic data about the type of people who follow this site.

However, what if Facebook decides that they don’t want to launch your app on a Facebook phone?

The fact that many of the major carriers have immediately jumped on this and will be offering devices in days using this new interface as the default launcher (Can you opt out if you get one of the phones and don’t like it?), is another worrying event. Facebook also has made this capability available in the Android version of their App, so users can turn it on themselves as soon as the service is available! Given the history that Facebook has on user security policy and how confusing and complex they make their settings, all with the goal of getting more and more of your data out of you.

What do you think of yesterday’s announcement?