Ad-supported social networks like Facebook rely on a fundamental conflict of interest: You go there to check on your friends and tell them what’s up, and they want you to look at ads which often have nothing to do with what you and your friends are doing.
These ads are placed alongside the content (pictures and wall posts) you share with your friends, making you, in essence, an unpaid staff writer and photographer for whomever owns the social network. No labor laws currently on the books address this arrangement, including child labor laws; so for instance, a 13-year-old sharing artwork on DeviantArt may be helping the site sell ad space to BP, but not receive any payment for their work.
Instead of paying writers and photographers fairly, social networking sites like Facebook rely on two things to keep you contributing: Ease of use, and network effects. In other words, they try to make it easier to share on their site than anyplace else, and they don’t play nicely with other sites using open technologies like RSS. Instead, they try to get you to stay on (for instance) Facebook as much as possible, because all your friends are there and they’ve designed it so you can’t reach them from any other site.
With that in mind, here’s how Facebook’s new Facebook Home launcher helps keep you on Facebook, and make it easier for you to work for Facebook for free.
“The awesome power of ‘default'”
That’s how Rob Walker put it for Yahoo! News. Basically, if you buy a new Facebook Home phone, like AT&T’s HTC First, Facebook everything is all you see when you turn it on. Your friends’ pictures are up-front on the lock screen, your photo is down at the bottom. Pop-up notifications of stuff happening on Facebook appear while you’re in the middle of other things, and have to be manually dismissed. And if you have the Facebook and Messenger apps on your compatible phone (mostly newer HTC and Samsung models) come April 12, you’ll get a pop-up telling you to switch your home screen for Facebook Home.
Controlling the conversation
Once Facebook Home is your home screen, it will shape how you use your smartphone (and eventually your tablet). The other apps that you used to use will be tossed in a drawer, so that you can look at more photos and chat with more people.
Escalating the conflict
Perhaps the worst thing about Facebook Home? Google will probably step up the game with Google+, and make it even more intrusive for people who use plain vanilla Android. (Or “Jelly Bean” Android, at any rate.)