Facebook is set to announce on Thursday new software for Android phones that will transform them into "Facebook phones," brining features such as the news feed and chat to the foreground. Leaks from the App Police website indicate that the experience, Facebook Home, would come pre-loaded on an HTC phone and soon be available for download from Google Play.
However, the young people who set mobile trends might see Facebook Home as more of a hijack than a feature— especially since they've moved on from Facebook to other mobile networks.
Young people's Facebook news feeds may be full, but they're loaded with automated posts from other social networks, such as Instagram and Vine. These newer apps have replaced Facebook, relegating the top social network to not much more than a repository for activities that take place elsewhere.
Could a Facebook phone lure kids back from their favorite apps? Unlikely. What Facebook has failed to understand is that kids don't mind hopping from one app to another. Similar to preferring specialty stores to a sprawling Walmart, kids partition their social activities and don't find as much value in the convenience of one-stop sharing.
Each network has a purpose and allows users to keep their communications separate. They are shifting their socializing to four newer networks in particular: Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and Tinder.
For instance, Snapchat lets people shoot a quick video or take a funny picture of themselves and share briefly with friends before it disappears after a few seconds. It's really just a fun way to chat when you have nothing to say. Facebook tried to make its own version, Poke, which kids saw as a rip-off of Snapchat and largely ignored.
Young people use Instagram to share photos of what they're doing and to like and comment on others' posts. Bottom line, Instagram has replaced Facebook for photo sharing. While Facebook does own Instagram, the Instagram experience is, for now at least, completely separate. (But since Instagram photos can be shared to Facebook, kids know Aunt Mary will still be able to enjoy them.)
Vine jumped into the video app fray and landed on top with its easy-to-make, 6-second videos. For kids, Vine sits between Snapchat and Instagram. Videos are spontaneous like those made on Snapchat, but have a long life within the Vine network and can be shared to Facebook, features that Instagram also offers.
About a year ago when I was working on a story " Why Facebook Doesn't Have to Be Cool Anymore ," high school and college students told me that finding more information about a crush. was the only thing still useful about Facebook.
But now they have Tinder, a mobile app for iPhones that lets kids express interest in other nearby users. If both people are interested in each other, the app sends an alert and opens a chat. This may give parents reason to worry — these people are strangers, after all — but the app is used primarily among student populations. You'd be hard pressed to find many users over the age of 21.
And a report today (April 2) from The Digital Universe, Brigham Young University's Utah campus newspaper, may further reassure parents.
"Tinder has truly "caught fire" in Provo, adding a new technological component to Provo’s robust dating scene." Tinder is not just for hook-ups — More than 55 percent of BYU students are married by the time they graduate.
BYU student and Tinder user Jenny Christensen, said Tinder is “hilarious and awesome … a light-hearted dating medium.”
And that's where Facebook has lost its lead. No one anymore describes Facebook as fun, it's the leftover social network that's too much trouble to ditch — after all, how else could older relatives feel connected to kids? A Facebook phone simply comes too late.