MILLIONS of Android phone users are set to be greeted with a Facebook homepage when they switch on in the morning following the introduction of a new app by the social networking site.
The Facebook Home app – launched by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday night – will allow Facebook to be the basic screen from which they search, surf and interact.
But technology experts warned that the app would allow Facebook unprecedented access to mobile phone users’ movements and actions.
It will also see Facebook move on to turf occupied by Google, which created the Android platform used on phones made by many companies, including Samsung and HTC.
In addition to the app available to all Android users, the new platform will also be preloaded on to a brand-new HTC phone – which has been dubbed the “Facebook Phone”.
When installed on a phone, “Home” takes over the lock screen and main display and turns it into a live feed of information, notifications and images Facebook users are sharing and present Facebook status updates and messages on the home screen without the user having to launch the Facebook app.
“After a protracted journey to market, the ‘Facebook phone’ finally arrives, yet not entirely in the way we had imagined,” said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com.
“[The HTC phone] is the first of a number of devices across manufacturers which will embed the social network’s novel experience into the fabric of functionality.”
He added: “What did provide the wow moment was the Face-book Home app – Facebook’s attempt to own the home screen of millions of mobile users. With this app, every Android phone has the potential to become a Facebook phone.”
Speaking at an event at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters in California, Zuckerberg described the software as a “new experience”.
“We are not building a phone and we are not building an operating system, but we are building something that is a whole lot deeper than an ordinary app,” he said.
He said that a mobile user’s homescreen is the “soul” of their phone. “It sets the tone for your whole experience and we think it should be deeply personal,” he added, signalling “Home” as a move into the mobile market.
“At one level, this is just the next mobile version of Facebook, but at a deeper level, I think that this can start to be a change in the relationship that we have with how we use these computing devices,” he said.
Industry watcher Om Malik from tech news website GigaOm, warned that the app could threaten users’ privacy.
“Facebook Home should put privacy advocates on alert, for this application erodes any idea of privacy,” he said. “If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action.”
He added: “The phone’s GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time.”
Last year, Zuckerberg pock-eted more than £630 million following its stock market flotation. The company is now worth around £39.5 billion, according to the Nasdaq stock market.
The software will be available for users to download on 12 April in the US and soon after in the UK.