The launch of the Facebook Home application has generate loads of hype in the online and, surprisingly, offline world. Another implication of the app consists of bringing the concept of “forking” once again among the hot topics. Ironically, the more forking is debated, the fewer people understand its ins and outs, mainly because nowadays everyone loves to have an opinion on the “trendy” subjects without bothering to actually study the matters thoroughly.
A quick search will reveal tons of blog posts from self appointed experts stigmatizing forking and the Facebook Home app. Little do they know, not only does Facebook Home constitute one of the least extreme “forks”, but Amazon, Google, Samsung and many other giants of the industry have done it for years without getting so much attention from the media. Examples include here the OS for the HTC devices which is basically an adapted version of the original Android, the Kindle Fire OS, etc.
The forking moniker – in its original form – applies every time a developer or a group of developers takes the original source code and performs modifications to it, transforming it more or less radically. It basically does not represent a threat to compatibility as long as the developer shares his code “upstream”, in order for others to create bug fixes, updates, so on and so forth. And, as long as the changes don’t limit the original capabilities of the OS (like in the case of the Chinese HTC variants that don’t run Google/Gmail) it’s perfectly fine.
So what is the deal with Facebook Home?
At its core, the new app called Facebook Home is nothing more and nothing less than a glorified custom launcher for your Android phone. However, instead of sticking to the classical screen, Facebook decided that when a person unlocks the screen, the first thing to spring should be, in their words, “people not applications”.
Facebook Home takes you directly to the Cover Feed interface, which enables you to scroll – horizontally – through the posts and statuses of you FB contacts. The Cover Feed is pretty intuitive, as it displays pictures and link to pictures in full screen mode and at the same time, the full-text statuses on the background of the person’s cover picture. It’s also interactive and you can perform actions such as “liking” the pic by tapping on the mid screen area twice and commenting via tapping the button in the lower left section. You can also utilize the inherent FB messenger by swiping your profile pic leftwards.
Why would you assume it to be forking?
Well, it practically isn’t. People simply assume that FB Home is forking because it replaces the original interface of the Android OS with the cover and the sheer fact that you cannot see the apps by default means that your access to them is hindered. Fortunately, the Facebook Home application enables you to utilize ALL your apps anytime you want. Swiping the photo upwards redirects the user to the App Drawer, where the icons of your application are listed horizontally. At the same time, swiping to the right takes you to a list of the most frequently used ones.
Both of these pages behave very similarly to the standard version of the application launcher and, more good news, the FB Home imports the settings you previously had in terms of organization or favorite apps. Sure, accessing them is an extra step and a power user might feel a bit bothered, but for the average person it doesn’t represent a major inconvenience.
The only downside, which on a side note is shared by virtually every Facebook application ever developed and is mainly related to the code of the social network, stems from the settings. There are so few options to fiddle with and the customization is limited to the display of the status and the data usage (a very unintuitive category)! The rest of the settings are mainly what you get on the desktop version of Facebook and are not directly related to the app itself. However, they did promise that updates would be released monthly so we can only hope for the best.
The bottom line is that every Facebook user can benefit a great deal from this custom launcher, as it considerably simplifies mobile access to the social network.