Facebook Home, the social network's lock screen replacement for Android, was just redesigned to make it look a bit more familiar. What was once a chromeless "Cover Feed" of Facebook statuses and photos now looks like a conventional lock screen, bearing a clock, the date, and the weather. In order to unlock your phone, you no longer need to tap on your circular Facebook avatar and swipe to the side — now, you just need to swipe up at any time. The company is ostensibly adding the features users have asked for, like the ability to change your lock screen wallpaper, but in the process it has stripped Home of the distinctiveness it once had.
Without your Facebook avatar and a quick link to Facebook Messenger in the forefront, what's left is a lock screen that isn't particularly handsome, customizable, or useful. You can still access Cover Feed by swiping left on your lock screen, but where Cover Feed was once filled with Facebook content, it was recently updated to also include Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr content. As Facebook morphs Home into a more competent lock screen, the company has increasingly removed itself from the equation, so why is it still investing money and resources in Home?
In the Google Play Store, Home hasn't even been downloaded five million times since it launched last April, while Instagram, for example, has been downloaded between 100 and 500 million times, according to their respective pages on the Google Play Store. Even as the tentpole feature of "the Facebook phone," the HTC First, Home doesn't seem to have made much headway. Of course, it couldn't have helped Home's cause that the First was rumored to have had "disastrous" performance on store shelves.
For an app that Facebook devoted an entire event to last April, regardless of the kind of app it is, five million downloads — let alone active users — isn't a whole lot. Part of Home's problem seems to be its identity as neither a lock screen, home screen, or launcher. Without its focus on Facebook content (like your avatar, front and center), it's no longer clear exactly what Facebook Home wants to be, and how it wants to get there. Android users seem eager to tweak their phone with new launchers and sometimes even mods like Cyanogen, but these tweaks generally make Android more functional, not less. Until recently, for instance, Home didn't even let you organize your apps into folders. Facebook still appears committed to its new Home, but who's living in it?