Facebook ambitious plan to take over your smartphone hasn't panned out, and apparently, the original team behind it has moved on. According to The New York Times' Bits blog, Facebook has disbanded the team that was initially responsible for developing Facebook Home, an Android skin that it released last year, which overhauled a phone to display Facebook photos on its lock screen and provide easy access to chat messages and status updates. Bits doesn't say that work on Home has necessarily ended for good, but it suggests the chances of it moving forward aren't very high either.
Home hasn't been updated since January
Facebook tells The Verge that there is in fact still a team working on Home, however. Presumably, that might be a different team at this point or a team that simply isn't dedicated to the effort, but it appears that Home is not yet done for. That said, the existing development has certainly been quiet of late — despite promising monthly updates, it hasn't been updated since January. The app remains available in the Play Store, largely with unfavorable reviews.
It's no secret that Home hasn't been the success that Facebook was hoping for. The phone it came preinstalled on, the HTC First, saw deep discounts shortly after launch and more or less disappeared shortly thereafter. And while Home itself did a good job transforming an Android phone into one that felt purpose-built for Facebook, there was little compelling reason to do that.
After its release, Facebook Home quickly shot to half a million downloads, but growth stalled from there. To date, Google Play reports that it's been installed between 1 million and 5 million times — a low figure on either end for an app from a prominent company.
Facebook put little muscle behind pushing Home forward, however. Like with its new apps Slingshot and Paper, Facebook largely allowed Home to grow on its own (outside of a launch event, at least). Home eventually expanded to loop in content from Instagram, Tumblr, and other social networks, but that clearly wasn't enough to win it a mass of new users.
Facebook has been more than willing to try out ideas and allow them to fail, but Home is a particularly high-profile example of that. Facebook is reported to have been working on phone projects for years before finally unveiling Home. It's realized that, as users transition to mobile, the best way to take advantage of the change is to put itself front and center on a phone. It's a bold goal, and one that it hasn't quite reached.
For now, Facebook's strategy seems to be shifting. Rather than blanketing a phone completely with one app, it's beginning to break its services up into a variety of standalone apps — perhaps allowing it to slowly fill up more and more of your home screen with Facebook products. It's a less dramatic effect, but it might be more achievable.
Update June 27th, 1:50PM ET: Facebook tells us that work is continuing on Home. This article originally stated that it appeared Facebook was abandoning efforts on Home, per a Times report suggesting that continued development was unlikely.