Facebook is a Mobile Company Like Google is a Car or Glasses Company
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
Facebook, as a company, has undergone quite a transition in the last year or two. Of course, this transition was completely necessary given the state of the market, not to mention the company's IPO, which had many experts declaring that social IPOs are doomed for failure. I am of course referring to the shift from a web company who happens to have a mobile app to a company that understands the potential of mobile and puts it at the top of its To-Do list. At least that is what they say.
The reality, of course, is very different. The way I see it, there are two options. Either Zuckerberg does not get what it means to be a truly mobile company or he gets it, but has the wrong people behind the wheel. You see, being a mobile company does not mean you launch a feature on your web property, then a few months later, you adapt it to fit a smaller screen. Mobile is a whole other philosophy and as far as Facebook products and features are concerned, I do not see the mobile philosophy anywhere.
I am going to give two recent examples, but let there be no mistake, there are many more instances in which it is clear that Facebook is still a web company with a mobile offering.
New Commenting System. Ooops, We Forgot Mobile
You might have noticed that Facebook rolled out a new commenting system in which you can reply directly to comments as opposed to just leaving another comment at the end of the thread when responding to someone. First of all, allow me to go off topic for a split second. The new commenting system stinks. It is confusing and seems to be very buggy. Comments seem to appear however or wherever they want if you do not use the new Reply option. Being that the Reply is pretty much invisible and most people won't see it, comments across Facebook are just a mess. But that is not the topic here, mobile is.
You see, this new brilliant roll out of Facebook threaded comments? Yea, they seem to have forgotten about mobile. No Reply on the mobile app. "OK, maybe they will release an update with the new option soon!" Maybe, but since there was an update just a few days ago on iOS and Android to launch Chatheads and Facebook Home, I doubt it. Also, a mobile company would have released the new comments on mobile first, or at least alongside the web.
This is of course worse than just a little slip up because now, any comment posted from a mobile device, appears on the Facebook thread completely out of order, making it impossible to read the thread. That is called a company that does not get mobile. Sorry Zuck, this post is long overdue, you had this coming when you said the iPad is not mobile and you did not release an iPad app for years. (see the video below, it is truly unbelievable in so many ways.)
iOS Push Notifications, Where Art Thou?
One of the most crucial parts of a modern mobile experience would have to be the notification system. Of course Facebook knows this if I am judging by its launch of Facebook Home. Except, the Facebook push notifications including pop ups, vibrations, and sounds have not worked on iOS for months.
A quick Google search (click that link, it is one of the most awesome sites on the internet) indicates that this is not a problem only I am having. In fact, it is not a problem Apple is having. This is a serious issue on Facebook's side and the best part? Facebook has not even acknowledged the issue, as far I can see in all the tens of threads I have read about it.
Given the nature of mobile and the social Web, notifications are not a luxury, they are an absolute necessity. Now, don't get me wrong, everyone has bugs, but bugs should be squashed as fast as possible. Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes a week, but this iOS issue has been going on for months since as far back as the launch of iOS 6.
This would never happen at a "mobile company", especially not a company that has Facebook's resources. This is a matter of priorities... Which leads me to the next point. Facebook Home. I get it, Zuck wants the ability to provide a Facebook experience on a mobile phone, as opposed to just another app on the user's home screen. I also understand why he wants to do that and it is not so he can make the claim that Facebook is a mobile company. Taking over a mobile phone means endless access to the user's data, including location, pictures, music, etc.
Facebook (Far Away from) Home
Sorry, but Facebook Home is not the mobile strategy that will put the company where it needs to be. Facebook Home is a launcher, a replacement home screen. It is underwhelming in every sense of the word. While it is designed fairly decently, Facebook could have done so much better. In fact, despite the recent numbers indicating that Facebook Home has been downloaded 500,000 times in a week (impressive for an independent developer, but for Facebook?), I will go out on a limb and say that the people who are going to download it already have and this is the best it's gonna get.
Sorry, but a launcher? Really? Facebook, the company with a billion users and endless money couldn't do better? To end on a positive note, at least the fact that Zuckerberg now understands that he NEEDS to be a mobile company is a step in the right direction and one that will lead to future strategic decisions. But please, how about we start with iOS notifications and the commenting system?