The Germans have a word for it… Schadenfreude. It literally means something like shameful enjoyment… the pleasure one takes in seeing a good friend fall off a roof… it’s also a terrific song in the show Avenue Q. In any event I was guilty of the “S” word yesterday watching Google fall off the mobile roof. The guilty banana peel is the new app from our good friends at Facebook called Facebook Home. As far as I can tell, it only works on Android but what it does is let loyal Facebook users turn their mobile device into essentially a Facebook Phone. The home screen of the phone, and all the other places and apps which a phone might reach out to, can be controlled through Facebook. The millions of Facebookers using Android devices can now lead a much more highly integrated Facebook world… mostly at the expense of Google… and there’s not a whole lot Google can do about it.
One of the great strengths of Android is that it does allows apps to talk to each other and do just these kind of things. It’s very open and Google, unlike Apple, doesn’t police who can offer what in their store… so they are vulnerable to those kinds of integrations. I imagine there will be an immediate rush to adopt the new tool… after all many Facebookers are just rabid in their devotion to their craft. Once Facebook has taken control, it can set the defaults for things like search to its preferences. It’s a brilliant move essentially allowing Facebook to gain a substantial foothold in mobile without having to come up with an operating system, a handset, or a deal with a carrier. Facebook can essentially hijack android devices.
The real pleasure comes from watching Google, who so studiously ripped off iOS by Apple, getting a piece of their own medicine. Steve Jobs was just furious when Android came out… indeed he had the Google guys over to yell at them from his death bed. So to see Google’s beloved Android having copied Apple then built a significant market share so comprehensively hijacked (just as mobile is exploding) by the only people who could pull that off in a large enough volume to hurt them, does warm my cold dead heart very slightly. Ironically, were Google to release a similar product featuring Google+ I’d be prepared to bet that they wouldn’t get anywhere near the same traction. Google+ is famously a bit of a ghost town with many profiles adopted but not much going on… where as Facebook is still the place where the cool kids hang out… actually Twitter is where the cool kids go but you see my point.